United States District Court, E.D. California
ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR
A. MENDEZ, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Scott Johnson (“Plaintiff” or
“Johnson”) sued Defendants Bach Thuoc Vu
(“Vu”) and Kimberly T. Le (“Le”)
(collectively, “Defendants”) in November 2014
alleging Defendants' Boomer Medical Clinic did not comply
with state and federal disability access laws. Compl. at 1,
4-7, ECF No. 1. Johnson brought four claims against
Defendants: (1) violation of the Americans with Disabilities
Act (“ADA”), (2) violation of the Unruh Civil
Rights Act, (3) violation of the California Disabled Persons
Act, and (4) negligence. Id. at 4-7. In April 2015,
Plaintiff voluntarily dismissed Vu without prejudice. ECF
Nos. 11, 12. In February 2016, the parties stipulated to
“settle the portion of the case relating to issues of
injunctive relief.” Consent Decree at 2, ECF No. 24.
The parties noted that the Court should not dismiss the case
in its entirety because “monetary issues are still at
issue . . . [and] these issues may still proceed to
trial.” Id. at 3. In February 2017, Johnson
moved for partial summary judgment on his first and second
claims. Mot. Summ. J. at 3-9, ECF No. 31-1. Johnson did not
address his third or fourth claims in his motion for summary
judgment. The Court granted Johnson's motion. ECF No. 35.
In April 2017, Johnson voluntarily dismissed his third and
fourth claims. ECF No. 38. Johnson now requests
attorneys' fees on his first and second claims. ECF No.
prevailing party may recover reasonable attorneys' fees
and expenses under the ADA and the Unruh Act. 42 U.S.C.
§ 12205; Cal. Civ. Code § 52(a). “[A]
plaintiff ‘prevails' when actual relief on the
merits of his claim materially alters the legal relationship
between the parties by modifying the defendant's behavior
in a way that directly benefits the plaintiff.”
Farrar v. Hobby, 506 U.S. 103, 111-12 (1992). To
determine a reasonable fee, courts calculate “the
number of hours reasonably expended on the litigation
multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate.” Hensley v.
Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983).
Hours Reasonably Expended
courts have discretion in determining the number of hours
reasonably expended on a case. See Chalmers v. City of
Los Angeles, 796 F.2d 1205, 1211 (9th Cir. 1986). A
court should exclude from a request for attorneys' fees
hours that were not reasonably expended, “such as those
incurred from overstaffing, or ‘hours that are
excessive, redundant, or otherwise unnecessary.”
The Sierra Club v. United States Envtl. Prot.
Agency, 75 F.Supp.3d 1125, 1148 (N.D. Cal. 2014)
(quoting Hensley, 461 U.S. at 434). Despite its
discretion, a court “may not attempt to impose its own
judgment regarding the best way to operate a law firm, nor to
determine if different staffing decisions might have led to
different fee requests.” Moreno v. City of
Sacramento, 534 F.3d 1106, 1115 (9th Cir. 2008).
motion requests $16, 199 in fees and costs, but his reply
reduces the request to $14, 274. Mot. for Attorneys' Fees
(“Mot.”) at 16; Reply at 4. In support of his
request, Plaintiff submitted a billing statement itemizing
the hours expended by attorneys Mark Potter, Phyl Grace,
Isabel Masanque, Chris Carson, and Amanda Lockhart. Billing
Statement at 1, ECF No. 37-3.
Le asks the Court to reduce several of the billing entries.
Opp'n at 2.
Mr. Potter's 9/30/2014 Entry
argues Mr. Potter's billing entry of 0.9 hours on
9/30/2014 is unreasonable in light of “the hundreds of
cases Plaintiff's firm has filed in this District.”
Id. at 2. Given that this case mirrors dozens of
others brought by Johnson, the Court finds Le's argument
meritorious. The Court reduces the 9/30/2014 entry to 0.3
Mr. Potter's 11/3/2014, 11/18/2014, and 2/3/2015
argues a more junior attorney or staff member could have
completed the public records request, review of cover sheet,
and drafting discovery for which Mr. Potter billed a total of
3.4 hours in the November and February billing entries.
Opp'n at 2. Johnson responds that the Ninth Circuit
rejected the same argument in Moreno. Reply at 1-2.
Under Moreno, a district court cannot reduce
attorneys' fees solely because a more junior attorney
could have completed the work. See Moreno, 534 F.3d
at 1115. In following Moreno, this Court will not
reduce the ...