United States District Court, E.D. California
MEMORANDUM & ORDER RE: PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR
ATTORNEYS' FEES, COSTS, AND LITIGATION EXPENSES
WILLIAM B. SHUBB UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the court is plaintiff's Motion for Reasonable
Attorneys' Fees, Including Costs and Litigation Expenses.
(Docket No. 29.) Plaintiff Byron Chapman is a physically
handicapped person who brought this action based on barriers
he encountered at defendant Mark Jacob's law office.
Plaintiff alleged violations of the Americans with
Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12101
et seq., California Health & Safety Code §
19955, and the California Unruh Civil Rights Act, California
Civil Code § 51, et seq. The parties settled
the case and defendant agreed that plaintiff, as a prevailing
party, is entitled to reasonable attorney's fees and
costs, as to be determined by the court. This matter was
taken under submission pursuant to Local Rule 230(g).
ADA authorizes a court to award attorneys' fees,
litigation expenses, and costs to a prevailing party.”
Lovell v. Chandler, 303 F.3d 1039, 1058 (9th Cir.
2002); see 42 U.S.C. § 12205. The court also
may award attorney's fees to the prevailing party in a
suit brought under the Unruh Act. See Cal. Civ. Code
§§ 52(a) & 55.55.
court calculates the reasonable amount of attorney's fees
by following a two-step process. First, the court determines
the lodestar calculation -- “the number of hours
reasonably expended on the litigation multiplied by a
reasonable hourly rate.” Hensley v. Eckerhart,
461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983). Second, the court may adjust the
lodestar figure “pursuant to a variety of
factors.” Gonzalez v. City of Maywood, 729
F.3d 1196, 1209 (9th Cir. 2013) (citation and internal
punctuation omitted). There is a strong presumption that the
lodestar amount is reasonable. Fischer v. SJB-P.D.
Inc., 214 F.3d 1115, 1119 n.4 (9th Cir. 2000). In
determining the size of an appropriate fee award, the court
need not “achieve auditing perfection.” Fox
v. Vice, 563 U.S. 826, 838 (2011). The court may use
estimates and “take into account [its] overall sense of
a suit” to determine a reasonable attorney's fee.
Reasonable Number of Hours
prevailing party has the burden of submitting billing records
to establish that the number of hours it has requested are
reasonable.” Gonzalez, 729 F.3d at 1202. The
court may reduce the hours “where documentation of the
hours is inadequate; if the case was overstaffed and hours
are duplicated; [or] if the hours expended are deemed
excessive or otherwise unnecessary.” Chalmers v.
City of Los Angeles, 796 F.2d 1205, 1210 (9th Cir.
submitted a billing summary itemizing time spent by attorneys
Thomas Frankovich and Amanda Lockhart. (Decl. of Thomas
Frankovich (“Frankovich Decl.”), Ex. F (Docket
No. 30-4).) Plaintiff requests a total of $62, 050 in
attorney's fees for 87 hours of work. (Id.) The
billing summary shows that Frankovich billed 79 hours and
Lockhart billed 8 hours, though defendant maintains that
numerous time entries are excessive, redundant, unnecessary,
or otherwise more appropriately performed by non-billing
time sheet proves to be of little help to the court. He does
not indicate whether the time for the individual entries is
listed in hours or minutes. If the time indicated is in
hours, the individual entries add up to a total number of
hours far greater than the 79 hours he claims. Indeed, it
appears to the court that many of these time entries are
missing decimal points or otherwise overestimated. However,
the court cannot discern which entries are listed incorrectly
and in which ways. Due to these deficiencies with
Frankovich's time sheet, the court in its discretion
takes a holistic approach in examining his claimed entries.
See Fox, 563 U.S. at 838-39.
this approach, the court reduces Frankovich's total time
spent on this case, including the fee application, to 39
hours, which is far more consistent with the expectation he
set at the settlement conference. (See Decl. of
Elizabeth Stallard ¶ 10 (Docket No. 35-1).) Moreover,
looking at the individual entries, it appears that Frankovich
overbilled for his work in this case. He has billed for
clerical tasks, such as phone calls and emails to the court,
for which he cannot recover, at least not a normal
attorney's billing rate. See Missouri v.
Jenkins by Agyei, 491 U.S. 274, 288 & n.10(1989);
Yates v. Vishal Corp., No. 11-CV-00643-JCS, 2014 WL
572528, at *6 (N.D. Cal. Feb. 4, 2014) (disallowing fees
billed for purely clerical or secretarial tasks). He has also
overbilled for filings, like plaintiff's complaint,
remedial letters, and the pretrial statement, that appear to
be boilerplate and resemble what he has produced in similar
cases. See Johnson v. Xinliang Bai, No.
2:16-cv-1698 WBS GGH, 2017 WL 3334006, at *2 (E.D. Cal. Aug.
4, 2017) (reducing time entries under similar circumstances).
Further, he has billed a number of hours related to his
consultation with Scottlynn Hubbard, a purported expert on
attorney's fees. As will be explained below, the court
will not allow plaintiff to recover for any time related to
Hubbard's work in this case.
contrast, the individual time entries presented for Lockhart
are much easier to discern and add up to the eight hours she
claims. While defendant maintains that Lockhart spent some of
her time on purely secretarial tasks, the court finds the
claimed time to be reasonably expended on the case. For
instance, any time Lockhart spent on emails appears to relate
to the merits of plaintiff's case.
made the above reductions, the court finds that
plaintiffs' attorneys reasonably expended a total of 47
Reasonable Hourly Rate
reasonable hourly rate is determined according to “the
prevailing market rates in the relevant community, ”
Blum v. Stenson,465 U.S. 866, 895 (1984),
“for similar work performed by attorneys of comparable
skill, experience, and reputation, ” Chalmers, 796 F.2d
at 1210-11. The relevant legal community “is the forum
in which the district court sits, ” Prison Legal
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