United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ORDER GRANTING IN PART PETITIONER'S MOTION FOR
RICARDO S. MARTINEZ, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Petitioner's Motion for
Attorneys [sic] Fees. Dkt. #30. Respondent initially removed
this action from state court. Dkt. #1. Finding no basis for
subject matter jurisdiction and noting Respondent's
failure to make any arguments to the contrary, the Court
remanded the action to state court and allowed Petitioner to
submit supplemental support for an award of fees. Dkt. #28.
Petitioner seeks attorneys' fees in the amount of $4, 050
for work performed on this matter by two attorneys. Dkt. #30.
Respondent has not responded. The Court awards attorneys'
fees as follows.
to 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c), district courts may award
payment of “just costs and any actual expenses,
including attorney fees, incurred as a result of the
removal.” District courts have broad discretion to
determine the reasonableness of fees. Gates v.
Deukmejian, 987 F.2d 1392, 1398 (9th Cir. 1992). To
determine a reasonable fee, courts start with the
“lodestar amount, ” which is calculated by
multiplying the number of hours reasonably expended by a
reasonable hourly rate. Camacho v. Bridgeport Fin.,
Inc., 523 F.3d 973, 978 (9th Cir. 2008). The lodestar
figure is presumptively a reasonable fee award. Id.
at 977. The court may then adjust the lodestar figure up or
down based upon the factors listed in Kerr v. Screen
Extras Guild, Inc., 526 F.2d 67, 70 (9th Cir. 1975). The
court need not consider the Kerr factors, however,
unless necessary to support the reasonableness of the fee
award. Cairns v. Franklin Mint Co., 292 F.3d 1139,
1158 (9th Cir. 2002).
Reasonable Hourly Rate
Ninth Circuit, “the determination of a reasonable
hourly rate ‘is not made by reference to the rates
actually charged the prevailing party.'” Welch
v. Metro. Life Ins. Co., 480 F.3d 942, 946 (9th Cir.
2007) (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 marks and citation 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).
both Mr. Tracy and Mr. Cunanan claim an hourly rate of $250.
The request is supported by Mr. Cunanan's declaration
establishing that others charge significantly more within the
district for similar work and establishing his approximately
ten years of experience. Dkt. #32 at ¶¶ 2-4.
Petitioner does not similarly support Mr. Tracy's hourly
rate beyond asserting that Mr. Tracy has been practicing for
more than forty years. Dkts. #30 at 3 and #31. However, based
on Mr. Cunanan's representations, the Court's
knowledge and experience, and Respondent's failure to
argue otherwise,  the Court finds $250 a reasonable hourly
rate for both attorneys.
party seeking fees bears the burden of documenting the hours
expended in the litigation and must submit evidence
supporting those hours.” Welch, 480 F.3d at
945-46 (citing Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424,
433 (1983)). The district court “should exclude any
hours ‘that are excessive, redundant, or otherwise
unnecessary.'” McCown v. City of Fontana,
565 F.3d 1097, 1102 (9th Cir. 2009) (quoting
Hensley, 461 U.S. at 434).
noted, Petitioner seeks an award for hours expended by both
Mr. Tracy and Mr. Cunanan. Mr. Tracy appears to have
represented Petitioner in a state court action to obtain
possession of property that was awarded to Petitioner in the
state court divorce proceeding but which the Respondent
refused to voluntarily vacate. Dkt. #18 at 1-3. Mr. Tracy did
not appear in the federal proceedings. Rather, Mr. Cunanan
appears to have been brought on solely to assist with the
federal court proceedings. Dkt. #32-1.
the Court finds the time expended on this matter to be more
than was necessary. Respondent's attempted removal
clearly lacked merit. By the time Mr. Cunanan appeared in
this action, the Court had sua sponte ordered
Respondent to show cause why the action should not be
remanded for lack of jurisdiction. Dkt. #15. In that sense,
Petitioner's entire motion to remand could be considered
somewhat unnecessary and duplicative. But Petitioner's
motion did aid the Court, Petitioner prevailed, and an award
Court finds, however, that involving two attorneys on this
routine matter likely led to some duplication of efforts. The
sparse billing records provided make it difficult to
determine the precise division of labor between the two
attorneys and Petitioner does little to delineate tasks.
Thus, the Court finds it reasonable to exclude the time spent
conferencing. The one exception to this reduction is the
initial meeting between the attorneys as it was likely akin
to an initial client meeting. However, because the history
necessary for success on the motion to remand would have been
conveyed at such a meeting, the Court excludes Mr.
Cunanan's time spent familiarizing himself with the state
the Court finds that time spent by Mr. Cunanan reviewing
Respondent's filings that were unrelated to remand were
unreasonable and not necessary to Petitioner's success.
the Court excludes the following entries:
Mr. Cunanan's Time
review state court file
review federal pleadings filed by Respondent
phone call and email to Tracy re: status