United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR
ATTORNEY'S FEES AND COSTS
RICARDO S. MARTINEZ CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
January 6, 2017, this Court issued an Order granting
Plaintiff Ikram Afinwala's Motion for Remand. Dkt. #11.
As part of that Order, the Court found Mr. Afinwala is
entitled to an award for the fees and costs he incurred in
bringing his Motion for Remand. Id. at 5. At the
Court's direction, Mr. Afinwala filed a Motion for
Attorney's Fees and Costs. Dkt. #12. Mr. Afinwala seeks
attorney fees and costs in the amount of $10, 556.47.
Id. at 1. Defendant filed no response to Mr.
Afinwala's motion. For the reasons set forth herein, the
Court GRANTS Mr. Afinwala's motion.
Court has previously set forth the relevant background to
this action and incorporates it by reference herein.
See Dkt. #11 at 1-2.
28 U.S.C. § 1447(c), an order remanding a case may
require the payment of just costs and any actual expenses,
including attorney fees, incurred by a party because of
removal. Courts determine fee award amounts by first
calculating a "lodestar figure, " which is obtained
by multiplying the number of hours reasonably expended on a
matter by the reasonable hourly rate. Intel Corp. v.
Terabyte Int'l, Inc., 6 F.3d 614, 622 (9th Cir.
1993). Courts may then 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. Given this standard, the Court finds the
attorney fee amount requested by Mr. Afinwala to be
Reasonableness of the Rates Requested
Ninth Circuit, determining a reasonable hourly rate "is
not made by reference to rates actually charged the
prevailing party." Chalmers v. City of Los
Angeles, 796 F.2d 1205 (9th Cir. 1986). Instead, the
reasonable hourly rate is determined by referring to the
prevailing rates charged by attorneys of comparable skill and
experience in the relevant community. See Blum v.
Stenson, 465 U.S. 886, 895 (1984). "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). Courts may also consider "rate
determinations in other cases, particularly those setting a
rate for the plaintiffs' attorney" as
"satisfactory evidence of the prevailing market
rate." United Steelworkers of Am. v. Phelps Dodge
Corp., 896 F.2d 403, 407 (9th Cir. 1990).
Afinwala's counsel requests a range of hourly rates.
See Dkt. #13 at 7. Five attorneys, Adam Berger,
Jennifer Robbins, Lindsay Halm, Jamal Whitehead, and Laura
Ewan, worked on Mr. Afinwala's Motion for Remand and
Motion for Attorney Fees. Id. at 1-4. The following
hourly rates are requested for each attorney: (1) a rate of
$485 for Mr. Berger; (2) a rate of $365 for Jennifer Robbins;
(3) a rate of $350 for Ms. Halm; (4) a rate of $325 for Mr.
Whitehead; and (5) a rate of $305 for Ms. Ewan. Id.
at 7. In addition to these attorneys, two paralegals,
Jennifer Woodard and Sheila Cronan, are also included as
timekeepers in Mr. Afinwala's request for attorney fees.
Id. at 4. Hourly rates of $150 and $140,
respectively, are requested for Ms. Woodward and Ms. Cronan.
Id. at 7. To support the rates requested, Mr.
Afinwala includes orders, issued in this district and in King
County Superior Court in 2015, where hourly rates ranging
from $455 to $425 were awarded for Mr. Berger's work, an
hourly rate of $305 was awarded for Ms. Robbins's work, a
rate of $230 was awarded for Ms. Ewan's work, rates
ranging between $140 and $130 were awarded for Ms.
Cronan's work, and a rate of $140 was awarded for Ms.
Woodward's work. See Dkt. #13 Exs. 1-3.
Afinwala contends the hourly rates he requests are reasonable
"based on the experience, skill, and education of the
respective timekeepers, and because they are consistent with
other rates approved by this court and the King County
Superior Court." Dkt. #12 at 3-4. Having considered
counsel's declaration, along with the attorney fees
orders issued by this district and King County Superior
Court, the Court agrees. The hourly rate requested for each
timekeeper is reasonable.
Reasonableness of the Number of Hours Requested
to the reasonableness of the hours requested, the Court notes
the party seeking fees "bears the burden of establishing
entitlement to an award and documenting the appropriate hours
expended and hourly rates." Hensley v.
Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 437 (1983). The Court also
excludes hours not reasonably expended because they are
"excessive, redundant, or otherwise unnecessary."
Id. at 434. Further, the Ninth Circuit has held that
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).
following amount of time was spent by each attorney who
worked on Mr. Afinwala's Motion to Remand: (1) Mr. Berger
devoted 1.7 hours in seeking remand; (2) Ms. Robbins devoted
2.2 hours in seeking remand; (3) Ms. Halm devoted .4 hours in
seeking remand; (4) Ms. Ewan devoted 1.6 hours in seeking
remand; and (5) Mr. Whitehead devoted 45.7 hours in seeking
remand and in drafting Mr. Afinwala's Motion for Attorney
Fees. Dkt. #13 at 5-7. Ms. Woodward devoted .4 hours in
seeking remand, and Ms. Cronan devoted 3.5 hours in seeking
remand. Id. at 6. In total, Mr. Afinwala's
counsel expended 55.5 hours, for a total lodestar amount of
$17, 658, to secure remand. Id. at 7. However,
instead of requesting attorney fees for the lodestar amount
of $17, 658, Mr. Afinwala's counsel only requests $10,
000. Id. Mr. ...