United States District Court, E.D. Washington
ORDER APPROVING QUI TAM ATTORNEY FEES
O. RICE CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
THE COURT is the Port of Benton's accounting for attorney
fees in relation to the Qui Tam claims. ECF Nos.
148, 213. Plaintiffs do not object to the amount requested,
but rather request the Court not require payment until final
judgment is entered on the remaining claims. ECF No. 218. The
Court - having reviewed the record and briefing - is fully
informed. For the reasons discussed below, the Court approves
the requested attorney fees award and denies Plaintiffs'
request to defer payment.
of background, Plaintiffs Randolph Peterson and Tri-City
Railroad Company, LLC, brought this action asserting only a
Qui Tam action based on two legal theories. ECF No.
1. Plaintiffs thereafter filed the First Amended Complaint
asserting a plethora of other, unrelated causes of action and
filed the Second Amended Complaint adding more substance to
their claims. ECF Nos. 6; 13. After obtaining approval from
the Court, Plaintiffs filed a Third Amended Complaint. ECF
No. 124. The Port objected, arguing the Third Amended
Complaint went beyond what was authorized by the Court; the
Court agreed and struck the complaint. ECF Nos. 133; 165.
Plaintiffs thereafter filed the Fourth Amended Complaint. ECF
August 8, 2019, the Port moved for summary judgment on the
Qui Tam claims and requested attorney fees. ECF No.
148. The Court granted the motion as to the Qui Tam
claims and the request for attorney fees under 41 U.S.C.
§ 3730. ECF No. 196. The Port has since provided an
accounting of the fees related to defending the Qui
Tam claims. ECF No. 213
U.S.C. § 3730(d)(4) provides: “If the Government
does not proceed with the action and the person bringing the
action conducts the action, the court may award to the
defendant its reasonable attorneys' fees and expenses if
the defendant prevails in the action and the court finds that
the claim of the person bringing the action was clearly
frivolous, clearly vexatious, or brought primarily for
purposes of harassment.” “The most useful
starting point for determining the amount of a reasonable fee
is the number of hours reasonably expended on the litigation
multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate.” Hensley v.
Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983). “This
calculation provides an objective basis on which to make an
initial estimate of the value of a lawyer's
services.” Id. “The district court 
should exclude from this initial fee calculation hours that
were not ‘reasonably expended.'” Id.
at 434 (citation omitted).
product of reasonable hours times a reasonable rate does not
end the inquiry. There remain other considerations that may
lead the district court to adjust the fee upward or downward,
including the important factor of the ‘results
obtained.'” Id. “Although hours
claimed or spent on a case should not be the sole basis for
determining a fee, [citation omitted], they are a necessary
ingredient to be considered. The trial judge should weigh the
hours claimed against his own knowledge, experience, and
expertise of the time required to complete similar
activities.” Johnson v. Georgia Highway Exp.,
Inc., 488 F.2d 714, 717 (5th Cir. 1974), abrogated
on other grounds by Blanchard v. Bergeron, 489 U.S. 87
(1989); Hensley, 461 U.S. at 434, n.9 (“The
district court also may consider other factors identified in
Johnson v. Georgia Highway Express, Inc.”).
Other factors include the novelty and difficulty of the
questions, the skill requisite to perform the legal service
properly, the customary fee, the amount involved, and the
results obtained. Johnson, 488 F.2d at 717-719.
party seeking an award of fees should submit evidence
supporting the hours worked and rates claimed.”
Hensley, 461 U.S. at 433. The fee applicant
“should make a good faith effort to exclude from a fee
request hours that are excessive, redundant, or otherwise
unnecessary . . . .” Id. “The applicant
should exercise ‘billing judgment' with respect to
hours worked  and should maintain billing time records in a
manner that will enable a reviewing court to identify
distinct claims.” Id. at 437.
It is not necessary to know the exact number of minutes spent
nor the precise activity to which each hour was devoted nor
the specific attainments of each attorney. But without some
fairly definite information as to the hours devoted to
various general activities, e. g., pretrial discovery,
settlement negotiations, and the hours spent by various
classes of attorneys, e. g., senior partners, junior
partners, associates, the court cannot know the nature of the
services for which compensation is sought.
Copeland v. Marshall, 641 F.2d 880, 891 (D.C. Cir.
1980) (quoting Lindy Bros. Builders of Phila. v. Am.
Radiator & Standard Sanitary Corp., 487 F.2d 161,
167 (3d Cir. 1973)). “Where the documentation of hours
is inadequate, the district court may reduce the award
accordingly.” Hensley, 461 U.S. at 433.
district court has discretion in determining the amount of a
fee award.” Id. at 437. “It remains
important, however, for the district court to provide a
concise but clear explanation of its reasons for the fee
Port has submitted a declaration with supporting material in
which the Port requests attorney fees in the amount of
$102, 980.25. The Court previously approved
of the hourly rate requested for the attorney fees in its
Order Granting Rule 37 Attorney Fees in Part and the Court
adopts that portion of ...