United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ORDER GRANTING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S REQUEST FOR
FEES AND COSTS
RICARDO S. MARTINEZ CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter initially came before the Court on Plaintiff's
Emergency Motion to Remand pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1447(c). Dkt. #4. On February 7, 2017, the Court granted
Plaintiff's motion, finding that there was no subject
matter jurisdiction in this Court. Dkt. #11. In addition, the
Court granted Plaintiff's request for attorney's fees
and costs, and directed Plaintiff to file a supplemental
motion, appending the evidence necessary to support her
request. Id. Plaintiff has since filed that
supplemental motion, to which Defendants have objected. Dkts.
#12 and #13. Plaintiff asks the Court for a total award of
$5, 217.61. For the reasons discussed below, the Court now
GRANTS IN PART AND DENIES IN PART Plaintiff's motion.
it sets a fee, the district court must first determine the
presumptive lodestar figure by multiplying the number of
hours reasonably expended on the litigation by the reasonable
hourly rate.” Intel Corp. v. Terabyte Int'l,
Inc., 6 F.3d 614, 622 (9th Cir. 1993). The reasonable
hourly rate is determined with reference to the prevailing
rates charged by attorneys of comparable skill and experience
in the relevant community. See Blum v. Stetson, 465
U.S. 886, 895 (1984). In determining the reasonable number of
hours expended on the litigation, the Court may exclude any
excessive, redundant, or otherwise unnecessary hours billed.
Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 434 (1983). The
Court may also adjust the lodestar with reference to factors
set forth in Kerr v. Screen Extras Guild, Inc., 526
F.2d 67, 69-70 (9th Cir. 1975). The relevant Kerr factors
here are: (1) the time and labor required; (2) the novelty
and difficulty of the questions; and (3) the skill requisite
to perform the legal services properly. “The lodestar
amount presumably reflects the novelty and complexity of the
issues, the special skill and experience of counsel, the
quality of representation, and the results obtained from the
litigation.” Intel, 6 F.3d at 622.
Reasonableness of Rates
Court first examines the hourly rate for time billed by her
counsel requested by Plaintiff. Plaintiff seeks a billing
rate of $245 per hour. Dkt. #12-1 at ¶ 3. “The
party seeking fees bears the burden of documenting the hours
expended in the litigation and must submit evidence
supporting… the rates claimed.” Welch v.
Metro. Life Ins. Co., 480 F.3d 942, 945-46 (9th Cir.
2007) (citing Hensley, 461 U.S. at 433). In the
Ninth Circuit, “the determination of a reasonable
hourly rate ‘is not made by reference to the rates
actually charged the prevailing party.'”
Welch, 480 F.3d at 946 (quoting Mendenhall v.
Nat'l Transp. Safety Bd., 213 F.3d 464, 471 (9th
Cir. 2000)). “Rather, billing rates should be
established by reference to the fees that private attorneys
of an ability and reputation comparable to that of prevailing
counsel charge their paying clients for legal work of similar
complexity.” Id. (internal quotation omitted).
“Affidavits of the plaintiffs' attorney and other
attorneys regarding prevailing fees in the community, and
rate determinations in other cases, particularly those
setting a rate for the plaintiffs' attorney, are
satisfactory evidence of the prevailing market rate.”
United Steelworkers of Am. v. Phelps Dodge Corp.,
896 F.2d 403, 407 (9th Cir. 1990). “Generally, when
determining a reasonable hourly rate, the relevant community
is the forum in which the district court sits.”
Camacho v. Bridgeport Fin., Inc., 523 F.3d 973, 979
(9th Cir. 2008) (vacating award of attorneys' fees in
Fair Debt Collection Practices Act case where district court
failed to identify the relevant community or address the
prevailing market rate).
case, Plaintiff has presented neither evidence of her
attorney's experience nor evidence supporting the
reasonableness of the rate requested for the Seattle market.
See Dkt. #12-1. A review by this Court of unlawful
detainer actions in states in the Ninth Circuit in which
attorney's fees were awarded reveals that rates awarded
range from $150 (primarily in Washington, Idaho and Montana)
on the lower end to $350 (primarily in California) on the
higher end. Defendants have also opposed the hourly rate
proposed by Plaintiff, and argue that $175 per hour is more
appropriate, particularly because they are pro se.
Dkt. #13 at 4.
the absence of proper evidence from Plaintiff as to
comparable attorney rates in the community, and considering
Defendants' arguments and the Court's own review of
comparable cases, the Court finds that Plaintiff has failed
to meet her burden to establish a reasonable hourly rate of
$245 per hour, and will therefore calculate the lodestar
using the hourly rate of $200 per hour for her attorney's
Reasonableness of Hours
turning to the reasonableness of the hours requested, the
Court notes that “[t]he party seeking fees bears the
burden of documenting the hours expended in the litigation
and must submit evidence supporting” the request.
Hensley, 461 U.S. at 433. As noted above, the Court
excludes those hours that are not reasonably expended because
they are “excessive, redundant, or otherwise
unnecessary.” Hensley, 461 U.S. at 434.
Further, the Ninth Circuit has held it is reasonable for a
district court to conclude that the party seeking
attorney's fees fails to carry its burden of documenting
the hours expended when that party engages in “block
billing” because block billing makes it more difficult
to determine how much time was spent on particular
activities. Welch v. Metro. Life Ins. Co., 480 F.3d
942, 948 (9th Cir. 2007). Likewise, intra-office conferences
between experienced counsel, absent persuasive justification
by the moving party, may be excluded from an award as
unnecessary and duplicative. See Id. at 949.
has presented a detailed description of the time spent
defending this action. Dkt. #12-1. The Court has reviewed her
attorney's billing entries. Id. As an initial
matter, the Court will not award fees for the time
Plaintiff's counsel spent discussing the case between
either attorneys in his own or with “outside”
counsel, as that activity connstitutes intra-office
conferences or is analogous to intra-office conferences.
Further, counsel has partially engaged in block billing time
entries, which has left the Court unable to attribute some of
the time spent on a particular activity. Dkt. #12-1;
Welch, 480 F.3d at 948. Accordingly, where the Court
cannot discern from the time entry itself the amount of time
to attribute to a particular activity, it will reduce those
entries by half. For all of these reasons, the Court will
deduct the following time from its award of attorney's
0.875 hours (0.875 x $200/hr = $175.00)
1.15 hours (1.15 x $200/hr = $230.00)
0.7 hours (0.7 x $200/hr = $140.00)
0.1 hours (0.1 x $200/hr = $100.00) Dkt. #12-1.