United States District Court, E.D. California
KASEY F. HOFFMANN, Plaintiff,
LASSEN COUNTY, et al., Defendants.
A. MENDEZ UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
a state prisoner proceeding pro se, filed this
action seeking relief under The Indian Child Welfare Act
(“ICWA”), 25 U.S.C. §§ 1901-63. The
matter was referred to a United States Magistrate Judge
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Rule 302.
move for attorney's fees, ECF No. 39, following dismissal
of Plaintiff's third amended complaint for failure to
join necessary parties. On January 23, 2018, the magistrate
judge filed findings and recommendations, ECF No. 43, which
were served on all parties. Defendants filed objections to
those findings and recommendations. Obj., ECF No. 46.
accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1)(C) and Local Rule 304, this Court has conducted a
de novo review of this case. The Court adopts in
part and modifies in part the findings and recommendations as
to Defendants' motion for attorney's fees.
party objects to a magistrate judge's findings or
recommendations, the district court makes a de novo
determination of those portions to which objection is made.
28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The district court “may
accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings
or recommendations made by the magistrate judge, ” and
receive further evidence or send the matter back to the
magistrate judge with instructions. Id.
novo review requires the court to “review the
matter anew, the same as if it had not been heard before, and
as if no decision previously had been rendered.”
Freeman v. DirecTV, Inc., 457 F.3d 1001, 1004 (9th
Cir. 2006). The court need not hear any witnesses or hold a
hearing of the case, so long as it arrives at an independent
conclusion about the portions of the report to which
objections were made. United States v. Remsing, 874
F.2d 614, 617-18 (9th Cir. 1989).
object to both parts of the magistrate judge's reasoning
for denying them attorney's fees. Opp'n at 1. First,
Defendants assert that the magistrate judge was incorrect in
finding that their motion was untimely, because it complied
with Local Rule 293(a). Id. at 2-3. Second,
Defendants assert the magistrate judge incorrectly relied on
Plaintiff's subjective belief that the complaint was
filed in good faith. Id. at 3-4.
Defendants' Motion Was Timely
first argument as to timeliness is well taken. Defendants
filed their motion for attorney's fees 28 days after
entry of judgment. The magistrate judge accurately assessed
that Defendants filed the motion beyond the 14-day period
called for in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(d)(2)(B).
Nevertheless, Defendants persuasively argued that Local Rule
293(a) extends the filing period to 28 days after judgment.
The 14-day deadline under Rule 54(d) applies in the absence
of a statute or court order providing otherwise. Fed.R.Civ.P.
54(d)(2)(B). Local Rule 293(a) is a standing court order for
purposes of Rule 54(d), Eastwood v. Nat'l Enquirer,
Inc., 123 F.3d 1249, 1257 (9th Cir. 1997), rendering
Defendants' motion timely.
The Factors In This Case Weigh Against A Fee
next assert that the magistrate judge should not have
considered Plaintiff's subjective beliefs when
determining whether to award fees. Opp'n at 3-4. In the
Ninth Circuit, the district court has discretion to refuse or
award costs. Draper v. Rosario, 836 F.3d 1072, 1087
(9th Cir. 2016). A prevailing defendant in a civil rights
case may receive a fee award if the plaintiff's action
was “unreasonable, frivolous, meritless, or
vexatious.” Galen v. Cnty. of L.A., 477 F.3d
652, 666 (9th Cir. 2007). Where the plaintiff is an
uncounseled prisoner, the Supreme Court has stated that
limitations on awarding fees “apply with special
force” and “fees should rarely be awarded against
such plaintiffs.” Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5,
15 (1980) .
argue fees must be awarded because one of the facts
alleged-that Plaintiff's parental rights were terminated-
was demonstrably false, and thus they conclude
Plaintiff's case was entirely frivolous. Yet the Court
did not dismiss Plaintiff's case because it was frivolous
or wholly without merit. Rather, the Court dismissed
Plaintiff's case, without prejudice, for failure to join
a necessary party pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(7) and (19). Based on the material submitted,