United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
WILLIAM F. WINGATE, Plaintiff,
CYNTHIA A. WHITLATCH, in her official and individual capacities, Defendant.
Honorable Richard A. Jones United States District Judge
matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion for
Attorneys' Fees & Costs. Dkt. # 226. Defendant
opposes the reasonableness of the requested fees. Dkt. # 238.
For the reasons that follow, the Court GRANTS in part and
DENIES in part Plaintiff's motion.
Wingate brought this civil rights action against the City of
Seattle, the Seattle Police Department, and Ms. Whitlatch
after Ms. Whitlatch arrested him for refusing to drop the
golf club that he used as a cane. Dkt. # 14 (Second Amended
Complaint). The Court dismissed Mr. Wingate's Fourth
Amendment claims and his related state claims for false
arrest and false imprisonment based upon Mr. Wingate's
plea agreement with the City. Dkt. # 127. The Court also
dismissed the City Defendants from this action because Mr.
Wingate failed to present a cognizable theory for their
involvement beyond vicarious liability. Id., Dkt. #
matter went to trial in October 2016. On the sixth day of
trial, Mr. Wingate voluntarily dismissed his state claim for
intentional infliction of emotional distress. Dkt. # 216. On
November 8, 2016, the jury found that Ms. Whitlatch had
violated Mr. Wingate's Fourteenth Amendment Equal
Protection rights and discriminated against him in violation
of Washington's Law Against Discrimination. Dkt. # 218.
The jury awarded Mr. Wingate $325, 000 in damages.
Wingate's attorneys now request that the Court award them
$742, 279.50 in fees and $30, 631.02 in costs. Dkt. ## 226,
242, 247. Ms. Whitlatch does not dispute that Mr.
Wingate's attorneys should be awarded fees and costs, but
does dispute the requested amount. Dkt. # 238. Ms. Whitlatch
asks the Court to reduce the attorneys' total fees and
costs to $376, 151.82. Id.
parties agree that the proper way for the Court to determine
Mr. Wingate's attorneys' fees and costs is by using
the Lodestar Method. Dkt. ## 226 at p. 4, 238 at p. 4. To
calculate the lodestar amount, the Court multiplies the
number of hours reasonably expended by the reasonable hourly
rate. In re Washington Pub. Power Supply Sys. Sec.
Litig., 19 F.3d 1291, 1295 n.2 (9th Cir. 1994);
United Steelworkers of Am. v. Phelps Dodge Corp.,
896 F.2d 403, 406 (9th Cir. 1990); Bowers v. Transamerica
Title Ins. Co., 100 Wash.2d 581, 597 (1983). The hours
reasonably expended must be spent on claims having a
“common core of facts and related legal
theories.” Martinez v. City of Tacoma, 81
Wash.App. 228, 242-43 (1996); Webb v. Sloan, 330
F.3d 1158, 1168-69 (9th Cir. 2003). The Court discounts hours
spent on unsuccessful claims, overstaffing, duplicated or
wasted effort, or otherwise unproductive time. Chalmers
v. City of Los Angeles, 796 F.2d 1205, 1210 (9th Cir.
1986), opinion amended on denial of reh'g, 808
F.2d 1373 (9th Cir. 1987); Bowers, 100 Wash.2d at
597, 600. The Court may adjust the lodestar calculation
“up or down to reflect factors, such as the contingent
nature of success in the lawsuit or the quality of legal
representation, which have not already been taken
into account in computing the ‘lodestar' and which
are shown to warrant the adjustment by the party proposing
it.” Id. at 594 (citing Miles v.
Sampson, 675 F.2d 5, 8 (1st Cir. 1982)) (emphasis in
original); see also Chalmers, 796 F.2d at 1212.
Reasonable Hourly Rate
established rate for billing clients may be a reasonable
hourly rate, but it is not conclusive. Bowers, 100
Wash.2d at 597. In addition to the established rate, the
court may consider the level of skill required by the
litigation, time limitations imposed on the litigation, the
amount of the potential recovery, the attorney's
reputation, and the undesirability of the case. Id.;
see also Chalmers, 796 F.2d at 1210-11.
Mindenbergs and Ms. Sargent, attorneys for Mr. Wingate, state
that their rates are $400 and $350 per hour, respectively.
Dkt. # 226. However, in May 2016, Ms. Sargent stated in a
declaration that her rate is $325 per hour. Dkt. # 92. Though
Ms. Sargent may increase her rates as she sees fit, she
offered no authority to prove that she may collect at a
higher rate for work that she performed at an agreed-upon
lower rate. Moreover, Ms. Sargent did not separate the hours
she worked at her previous rate versus those hours she worked
at her current rate. Therefore, the Court will reduce her
rate to $325 per hour for the hours she worked on this
matter. The Court finds that Ms. Mindenbergs's rate of
$400 per hour is reasonable based on her experience and is
consistent with her prior declaration in this matter.
See Dkt. # 93. Similarly, the Court finds that Ms.
Farr's hourly rate of $275 is reasonable in the local
marketplace. Van Skike v. Dir., Office of Workers'
Comp. Programs, 557 F.3d 1041, 1046 (9th Cir. 2009)
(“The Supreme Court has consistently held that
reasonable fees ‘are to be calculated according to the
prevailing market rates in the relevant community . . .
.'”) (internal citations omitted). The Court also
finds that $100-$125 per hour for paralegal work is
reasonable in the local marketplace. Ms. Mindenbergs billed
out Mr. Proctor's paralegal services at $150 per hour,
and though the Court finds this steep when compared to
similarly situated paralegals in Seattle's marketplace,
it nonetheless approves of this rate for the work done in
this matter. Finally, the Court finds that Ms. Catunao's
hourly rate of $125 is reasonable.
Court notes that Ms. Mindenbergs claims to have employed a
third-year law student, Ms. Bakken, to help with the matter.
However, there are no time entries for Ms. Bakken-Ms.
Mindenbergs merely wrote Ms. Bakken a check for $634.00, Dkt.
# 227-1 at p. 18-and nothing to give the Court reason to
believe her fees were reasonable or even related to this
matter. Therefore, the Court rejects any fees that Mr.
Wingate's attorneys may seek for Ms. Bakken.