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Knickerbocker v. Corinthian Colleges

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

August 12, 2014

MEGHANN KNICKERBOCKER, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
CORINTHIAN COLLEGES, et al., Defendants.

ORDER GRANTING ATTORNEYS' FEES

JAMES L. ROBART, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

This motion comes before the court on Plaintiffs' motion for attorneys' fees (Mot. (Dkt. # 92)) and Defendant Corinthian Colleges, Inc.'s opposition thereto (Resp. (Dkt. # 98).) Having considered the submissions of the parties, the balance of the record, and the relevant law, and no party having requested oral argument, the court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part Plaintiffs' motion.

II. BACKGROUND

On April 7, 2014, this court entered monetary sanctions against Corinthian Colleges Inc. ("Corinthian") for discovery conduct that the court found constituted or was tantamount to bad faith and reopened discovery. ( See 4/7/14 Order (Dkt. # 85).) As part of those sanctions, the court awarded attorneys' fees to Plaintiffs. ( See id. at 25.) Specifically, the court held: "Plaintiffs may recoup costs and fees associated with their first and second motions for sanctions, as well as costs and fees of duplicative discovery reasonably attributable to Corinthian's sanctioned conduct." ( Id. ) The court required Plaintiffs to file a separate motion detailing their requested attorneys' fees at the close of the second discovery period. ( Id. )

Plaintiffs' motion, however, requested attorneys' fees and costs for legal work that exceeded the scope of the court's award of sanctions. ( See generally Mot.) Accordingly, the court ordered Plaintiffs to file a supplemental memorandum identifying, per the court's sanctions order, only those fees and costs attributable to (1) Plaintiffs' two motions for sanctions and (2) the duplicative depositions of seven fact witnesses, namely Pamela Hainley, Jenna Rygol, Meredyth Given, Lisa Cook, Marcie Phillips, Sheila Austin, and Michelle Paulino. ( See 8/1/14 Order (Dkt. # 103).) Having received Plaintiffs' memorandum, (Mem. (Dkt. # 104), as well as Corinthian's opposition, [1] (Opp. (Dkt. # 106), the court now evaluates the reasonableness of Plaintiffs' requested fees.

III. ANALYSIS

A. Reasonableness of Fees

To determine whether the requested fees are reasonable, the court applies the lodestar method. See Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983). Under this method, the court first determines a lodestar figure by multiplying the number of hours reasonably spent on the litigation by a reasonable hourly rate. Id. The court "may then adjust this lodestar calculation by other factors." Blanchard v. Bergeron, 489 U.S. 87, 94 (1989). "The fee applicant bears the burden of documenting the appropriate hours expended in the litigation and must submit evidence in support of those hours worked." Welch v. Metro. Life Ins. Co., 480 F.3d 942, 948 (9th Cir. 2007).

The reasonable hourly rate corresponds to the prevailing market rate in the relevant community considering the experience, skill, and reputation of the attorney in question. Chalmers v. City of L.A., 796 F.2d 1205, 1210 (9th Cir. 1986), amended on other grounds, 808 F.2d 1373 (1987). In assessing whether the attorneys spent a reasonable number of hours on the litigation, courts may consider, among other factors: the novelty and difficulty of the questions involved, the skill necessary to perform the legal services properly, time limitations imposed by the client or circumstances, the amount involved and the results obtained, and the experience, reputation and ability of the attorneys. LaFarge Conseils et Etudes, S.A. v. Kaiser Cement & Gypsum Corp., 791 F.2d 1334, 1341-42 (9th Cir. 1986) (citing Kerr v. Screen Extra Guild, Inc., 526 F.2d 67, 69-70 (9th Cir. 1975)).

B. Hourly Rates

Plaintiffs have submitted declarations describing the qualifications and experience of the four lawyers who worked on the case. ( See Martin Decl. (Dkt. # 93); Enslow Decl. (Dkt. # 95); Khalish Decl. (Dkt. # 96); Burke Decl. (Dkt. # 97).) Partner Dan Khalish, with 13 years of experience, billed $450.00 per hour, of counsel Margaret Enslow, with 8 years of experience, billed $375.00 per hour, of counsel David Martin, with 8 years of experience, billed $375.00 per hour, and associate Lisa Burke, with 4 years of experience, billed $300 per hour. ( See Martin Decl. ¶¶ 4-5; Heyrich Decl. ¶ 1; Enslow Decl. ¶¶ 3, 22; Khalish Decl. ¶¶ 3, 11; Burke Decl. ¶¶ 3, 8.) Corinthian has not objected to these hourly rates. ( See Resp.) Given the lack of objection, and based upon the court's familiarity with the rates charged by attorneys with similar qualifications in the Seattle legal community, the court finds that these rates are reasonable.

C. Number of Hours

1. First and Second Motions ...


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