United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR ATTORNEY
FEES AND COSTS
RICARDO S. MARTINEZ CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff Gretchen
Enger's Motion for Attorneys' Fees. Dkt. #16. Pro
se Defendants Svetlana Garagan and Nikolay Garagan filed
no response to Plaintiff's Motion. For the reasons set
forth below, Plaintiff's Motion for Attorney Fees and
Costs is GRANTED.
removed this case on July 26, 2019. Dkt. #1. Plaintiff filed
a motion to remand on August 6, 2019. Dkt. #6. In that
motion, Plaintiff requested relief pursuant to §
1447(c). Id. at 7. On September 10, 2019, the Court
granted Plaintiff's motion and remanded this case. Dkt.
#12. The Court found that Plaintiff was entitled to fees and
costs under 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c) and ordered Plaintiff to
file a supplemental motion for attorney fees and costs.
Id. at 5. On September 24, 2019, Plaintiff filed
this Motion requesting an award of $3, 643.75 attorneys'
fees and costs as well as Rule 11 sanctions against
Defendants for bad faith litigation.
courts have broad discretion to determine the reasonableness
of fees. Gates v. Deukmejian, 987 F.2d 1392, 1398
(9th Cir. 1992). To make this determination, courts determine
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 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).
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 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). “The 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)). 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, 480 F.3d at 948. 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).
Court will first address the requested hourly rate.
Plaintiff's counsel indicates via declaration that the
three attorneys at Dimension Law Group working on this case
charge $275 per hour. The Court finds that $275 is an
appropriate hourly rate in this case given the record and
typical attorney rates in the Seattle legal community.
Court next turns to the reasonableness of the hours
requested. Having reviewed the specific billing entries, the
Court finds that 12.57 hours, totaling $3, 456.75 in
attorneys' fees, is sufficiently justified. The tasks
listed by Plaintiff's counsel are reasonably associated
with Defendants' removal action, including researching
and drafting the motion to remand and resetting the show
cause hearings in Snohomish Superior Court that were
cancelled due to this removal action. See Dkt.
#16-2. The Court likewise finds the costs totaling $187.00,
which include mailing, printing, and research costs,
justified and reasonably associated with Defendants'
removal action. See Dkt. #16-3. This results in a
total award of $3, 643.75 in fees and costs.
Rule 11 Sanctions
also requests Rule 11 sanctions against Defendants for filing
their motion for reconsideration on September 23, 2019. Dkt.
#16 at 2 (citing Dkt. #15). Under Rule 11, a court may impose
an appropriate sanction on a party that has presented to the
court a written motion for any improper purpose. Fed.R.Civ.P.
11(c)(1). Plaintiff initially requested sanctions in her
motion to remand, arguing that Defendants improperly used
this removal action to obstruct the proceedings of the
unlawful detainer action in state court. Dkt. #6 at 11. The
Court declined to issue sanctions on the basis that pro
se Defendants would not have the same understanding as
licensed attorneys as to whether they had an objectively
reasonable basis for seeking removal. Dkt. #12 at 4. However,
the Court cautioned Defendants against future efforts to
remove this action to federal court without a reasonable
basis. Id. Plaintiff now renews its request for
sanctions based on Defendants' motion for reconsideration
and specifically requests that this Court “deem the
Defendants as ‘vexatious litigants' and/or grant
in rem relief to Plaintiff to ensure that no future
filing in this court will delay Plaintiff's use of the
the All Writs Act, 28 U.S.C. § 1641(a), district courts
may take appropriate action to regulate the activities of
vexatious litigants. De Long v. Hennessey, 912 F.2d
1144, 1147 (9th Cir. 1990). The Ninth Circuit defines
“vexatious litigants” as individuals with
“abusive and lengthy histories of litigation.”
Weissman v. Quail Lodge, Inc., 179 F.3d 1194, 1197
(9th Cir. 1999) (citing De Long, 912 F.2d at
1147-48). A pre-filing order enjoins a “vexatious
litigant” from filing future actions without first
obtaining leave of the court. Such orders are an extreme
remedy that should rarely be used. Molski v. Evergreen
Dynasty Corp., 500 F.3d 1047, 1057 (9th Cir. 2007). To
identify those rare instances that warrant entry of a
pre-filing order, district courts consider four factors.
First, the litigant must be given notice and a chance to be
heard before the order is entered; second, the district court
must compile an adequate record for review; third, the
district court must make substantive findings about the
frivolous or harassing nature of the plaintiff's
litigation; and fourth, the vexatious litigant order
“must be narrowly tailored to closely fit the specific
vice encountered.” De Long, 912 F.2d at 1148.
The relevant record for review includes prior complaints and
related filings and orders. See Molski, 500 F.3d at
Court is sympathetic to Plaintiff's frustration in the
delays caused by Defendants' actions. Here, Plaintiff
requests an order based on Defendants' removal action
that is now closed. Plaintiff also references Defendants'
bankruptcy filing as further evidence of bad faith
litigation, but this Court is uninformed as to the
frivolousness or bad faith nature of that separate