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Navcom Technology, Inc. v. Oki Electric Industry Co, Ltd.

United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division

January 7, 2020

NAVCOM TECHNOLOGY, INC, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
OKI ELECTRIC INDUSTRY CO, LTD, Defendant. Date Team Member Title Task/ Description Time Rate Req. Amount (USD) Plaintiffs' Objection and Basis for Objection Court Ordered Reduction

          ORDER RE ATTORNEYS' FEES

          EDWARD J. DAVILA, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On September 5, 2019, the Court granted in part Defendant Oki Industry Co., Ltd.'s (“Defendant”) motion for fees and costs and directed the parties to meet and confer regarding the amount. As a result of the meet and confer process, Plaintiffs no longer contest or request any reduction of Defendant's claim for $136, 646.00 USD and ¥2, 414, 800 JPY fees as reflected in Exhibit GG filed on November 11, 2019. Dkt. No. 423-3. Defendant, however, seeks an additional $3, 457, 977.00 USD and ¥41, 970, 300 JPY in attorney fees as reflected in Exhibit FF. Dkt. No. 423-2. Plaintiffs assert several objections to a large portion of these additional fees and request that the fees in Exhibit FF be reduced by $1, 813, 051.01 USD and ¥28, 613, 836.00 JPY. Joint Statement at 1 (Dkt. No. 423). Having reviewed the Joint Statement and related Exhibits, the Court orders as follows.

         A. Clerical Work

         Plaintiffs object to certain billing record entries as “clerical work” that could have been reasonably performed by a paralegal or other non-attorney. The Court overrules nearly all of these objections. Many of the so-called entries for clerical work describe attorney-level legal work such as research, review of documents, discussions of various legal issues, revisions to briefs, draft motion, prepare declaration, finalize briefs for filing, review and organize recently filed documents, attend to joint case management statement, attend to document productions, and attention to billing issues.

         Some of the entries describe work that could have been performed by a non-attorney such as update calendar, review and organize documents, file exhibits under seal, circulate correspondence, circulate filing notifications, update electronic file, create certificate of service, update case calendar reminder, attention to documents and create binders. The vast majority of this work, however, was performed by a paralegal at a lower hourly fee rate. No. reductions are warranted.

         Defendant had attorneys translate documents. It was not unreasonable for Defendant to have done so given the nature of this case. See e.g. Gidding v. Anderson, No. 07-4755 JSW, 2008 WL 5068524 (N.D. Cal. Nov. 24, 2008) (awarding translation costs because translations were reasonably necessary to the proper determination of the issues).

         Paralegals billed at $150/hour to “[b]reak down war room; coordinate with vendors; break down Courtroom and attend jury verdict readings” (10.5 hours on 5/8/14 and 6.0 hours 5/9/14), and for “[t]rial; document preparation; break down war room/court room/break out rooms after trial conclusion; coordinate with vendors” (137.5 hours on 5/30/14). Plaintiffs contend that the “break down” could have been reasonably performed by a legal assistant or other professional at a lower rate, and accordingly request a 75% reduction of each of these billing entries. The Court agrees that this type of work could have been reasonably completed by an employee at a lower hourly rate. Plaintiffs' requested 75% reduction of these fees is appropriate.

         B. Associate Work

         Plaintiffs object to certain billing record entries as work that could have been performed by a less senior attorney. The Court overrules the objection. Although it may have been theoretically possible for a less senior attorney to perform certain tasks (i.e. legal research, document review, document summaries, initial drafts of discovery responses and briefs, search for record citations), the reality was that until the trial preparation and trial phases of this litigation, Defendant's litigation team consisted of only two United States-based partners, Labgold and Hoeffner, and no associates. Defendant was entitled to its choice of counsel and, contrary to Plaintiffs' assertion, was not required to hire a law firm with associates. The Court finds the fees charged by partners Labgold and Hoeffner were reasonable.

         C.Vague” Litigation Purpose

         Plaintiffs object to certain entries because the “task described does not appear reasonably necessary to [Defendant's] legal defense.” Joint Statement at 3. Plaintiffs point to the following examples of tasks they contend were not reasonably necessary to Defendant's defense: “review trial transcripts” (5/9/14); lengthy “meeting[s] with client” about unspecified topics (9/24/12); “review of files” (3/15/13); and “editing responses” to unspecified requests (9/7/13).

         The Court agrees with Plaintiffs that many of Defendant's billing entries are too vague. Under Ninth Circuit law, “‘counsel is not required to record in great detail how each minute of [their] time was expended'” as long as “the attorneys have satisfactorily ‘identif[ied] the general subject matter of [the] time expenditures.'” Pollinator Stewardship Council v. United States EPA, No. 13-72346, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 13343, at *22 (9th Cir. June 27, 2017) (quoting Fischer v. SJB-P.D. Inc., 214 F.3d 1115, 1121 (9th Cir. 2000)). Each of the tasks identified above- reviewing transcripts, meeting with a client, reviewing files, and editing responses-are common litigation tasks for which Defendant is entitled to some compensation. The entries, however, fail to identify the general subject matter of the transcripts, meeting, files, and responses. The Ninth Circuit has instructed that when a fee applicant's documentation is inadequate, the district court is free to reduce an applicant's fee award. Trustee of Directors Guild of America-Producer Pension Benefits Plans v. Tise, 234 F.3d 415, 427 (9th Cir. 2000); see also Robinson v. Open Top Sightseeing San Francisco, LLC, No. 14-852 PJH, 2018 WL 2088392, at *4 (N.D. Cal. May 4, 2019) (reducing hours by 10% to account for vague entries); Gilead Sciences, Inc. v. Merck & Co., Inc., No. 13-4057 BLF, 2017 WL 3007071, at *8 (N.D. Cal. July 14, 2017) (applying percentage reduction to vague entries); Davis v. Prison Health Services, No. 09-2629 SI, 2012 WL 4462520, at *12 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 25, 2012) (applying across-the-board 10% reduction for vague billing records). Accordingly, this Court exercises its discretion to apply an across-the-board 10 percent reduction to vague entries as specified in section “J” of this Order.

         D.Excessive” Time

         Plaintiffs object to certain entries because “[t]he amount of time spent on the task does not appear reasonable for an attorney/professional at this billable rate.” Joint Statement at 4. Plaintiffs also contend that certain entries are for work that could have reasonably been performed by fewer timekeepers. Plaintiffs give three examples of purportedly excessive billing by partners: (1) 99.50 hours to research and draft a reply brief in support of Defendant's motion for supplemental attorney fees (5/23/19 - 5/30/19); 11 hours for a ...


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