United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
HAROLD L. HUTCHINSON, Jr., Plaintiff,
GARRISON PROPERTY AND CASUALTY INSURANCE CO., Defendant.
ORDER GRANTING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S SUPPLEMENTAL
MOTION FOR FEES AND COSTS
RICARDO S. MARTINEZ, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff's Supplemental
Motion for Fees and Costs. Dkt. #16. This Court previously
granted Plaintiff's request for the reasonable fees and
costs he incurred to bring a motion for remand. Dkt. #15. The
Court directed Plaintiff to file a supplemental motion
setting forth the fees and costs requested, along with the
proper support for those fees and costs. Id.
Plaintiff now seeks $6, 450.00 in attorneys' fees, and no
costs. Defendant has filed an opposition to Plaintiff's
supplemental motion, asserting that the request is
unreasonable, unjust, and unsubstantiated. Dkt. #18.
Defendant requests that Plaintiff's attorneys' fees
be reduced to $2, 165.00. For the reasons discussed below,
the Court agrees with Defendant that Plaintiff's request
is unreasonable, and now GRANTS IN PART Plaintiff's
motion as further discussed below.
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
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 his
counsel requested by Plaintiff. Plaintiff seeks a billing
rate of $450 per hour for the work performed by attorney Gary
N. Gosanko, $375 per hour for the work performed by attorney
Nicholas J. Lepore, and $150 per hour for the work performed
by paralegal Joanna Jackowich. Dkt. #17 at ¶ ¶ 3, 5
and 10. “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 not presented adequate evidence
supporting the reasonableness of the rates requested in this
market. See Dkt. #17. Indeed, Plaintiff's
counsel merely states in conclusory fashion the he
“believes” the rates requested are reasonable.
Further, the Court observes that at the time Plaintiff filed
his original request for fees (in his motion to remand), just
one month prior to filing the instant motion, Attorney
Gosanko asserted to the Court that his hourly rate is $400
per hour. Dkt. #11 at ¶ 9. Defendant does not address
the reasonableness of the rates in this market, but does ask
the Court to apply the billing rate of $400 per hour, rather
than $450 per hour, for the time spent by Attorney Gosanko
related to the motion for remand.
the Court's familiarity with the Seattle-area/Western
District of Washington market and the rates typically charged
by experienced attorneys in these types of cases, the Court
finds that a rate of $400 for Attorney Gosanko is reasonable.
The Court further finds that the rates requested for Attorney
Lepore ($375/hr) and Paralegal Jackowich ($150/hr) are
Reasonableness of Hours
Court now turns to the reasonableness of the hours requested.
“The 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 summary description of the time his counsel
spent related to the motion for remand. Dkt. #17. Defendant
has objected to the number of hours requested as
unreasonable, unjust and unsubstantiated, and the Court has
independently reviewed Plaintiff's attorneys' billing
summary. Dkt. #17. The Court agrees that the time requested
for work on the motion to remand and reply in support of that
motion, which together totaled nine substantive pages, is
unreasonable, as it appears to be redundant and/or excessive.
Plaintiff requests 7.2 hours by Attorney Gosanko for his work
on the motion to remand. Attorney Gosanko previously
represented to the Court that he worked “over 2.5
hours” to prepare the motion. Dkt. #11 at ¶ 9.
Given that representation, the short length of the motion,
and the simplicity of the legal issue and analysis, the Court
finds a reasonable amount of time to award for the
preparation of the motion to be 3.0 hours of time.
also requests 2.1 hours by Attorney Gosanko for his work on
the Reply in support of the motion to remand, and 4 hours by
Attorney Lepore for his work on the same, for a total of 6.1
hours. Dkt. #17 at ¶ ¶ 6 and 10. Given the short
length of the reply, and the simplicity of the legal issue
and analysis, the Court finds a reasonable amount of time to
award for the preparation of the reply brief to be 2.5 hours
of time ...