United States District Court, D. Nevada
December 6, 2012, this court considered defendants'
motion to compel and request for sanctions (ECF No. 34)
against plaintiff Erica Pool. The court granted the motion
and ordered that plaintiff provide outstanding discovery
requests as soon as possible. (ECF No. 43.) The court also
granted defendants' request for an award of
attorney's fees and costs as a sanction, and directed Ms.
Willey's counsel to submit a memorandum of attorney's
fees and costs. The court indicated that it would determine
the amount of sanctions to be ordered under a separate order.
counsel, Ms. Goddard, filed an itemized billing in support of
defendants' motion to compel and request for sanctions
(ECF No. 44), supported by her declaration (ECF No. 44-1).
The court now considers defendants' report of fees and
costs related to defendants' motion to compel.
are the prevailing party to the extent that the court
determined that Ms. Pool should have provided defendants with
outstanding discovery requests. The court concluded that an
award of attorney's fees and costs was proper under the
circumstances, and it must now calculate a reasonable fee
of reasonable attorney's fees is a two-step process.
First, the court computes the “lodestar” figure,
which requires the court to multiply the reasonable hourly
rate by the number of hours reasonably expended on the
litigation. Fischer v. SJB-P.D., Inc., 214 F.3d
1115, 1119 (9th Cir. 2000) (citation omitted). Second, the
court “may adjust the lodestar, [only on rare and
exceptional occasions], upward or downward using a multiplier
based on factors not subsumed in the initial calculation of
the lodestar.” Van Gerwen v. Guarantee Mut. Life
Co., 214 F.3d 1041, 1045 (9th Cir. 2000).
Reasonable Hourly Rate
customary for attorneys to bill an hourly rate for legal
services provided, and Ms. Goddard attests that her hourly
rate is $425, and an associate assigned to the case, Ms.
Jacobsen, charges an hourly rate of $300. Defendants assert
that these hourly rates are reasonable considering the skill,
experience, and reputation of the attorneys assigned to this
case. The court finds both of these hourly rates to be
reasonable and comparable to hourly rates attorneys
practicing before this court routinely charge.
Hours Reasonably Expended
court next considers the hours expended on the tasks outlined
in Ms. Goddard's declaration. The party seeking an award
of fees must submit evidence supporting the hours worked.
Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983).
“Where the documentation of hours is inadequate, the
district court may reduce the award accordingly.”
Id. The court should exclude from the initial fee
calculation hours that are not reasonably expended.
Id. at 433-34. In other words, the court has
discretion to “trim fat” from, or otherwise
reduce, the number of hours claimed to have been spent on the
case. Edwards v. Nat'l Business Factors, Inc.,
897 F.Supp. 458, 460 (D.Nev. 1995) (quotation omitted);
see also Gates v. Deukmejian, 987 F.2d 1392, 1399
(9th Cir. 1992).
Goddard provides the dates that she and Ms. Jacobsen provided
legal services in connection with the motion to compel and
for sanctions, a task summary of work performed for each
entry, the time spent on each task, and redacted invoices.
(ECF Nos. 44 at 2-3, 44-3.) As identified in detail by
plaintiff's objections to defendants' memorandum
(See ECF No. 48), defendants' billing records
include some inconsistencies that violate regular billing
practices and guidelines, such as improper block billing
entries, vague entries, and billing in quarter-hour
court has the discretion to reduce fees to “account for
the potential inflation of hours that may result from block
billing.” Ryan v. Editions Ltd. W., Inc., 786
F.3d 754, 765 (9th Cir. 2015). Ms. Goddard provides only a
vague description of the tasks completed and she does not
provide a specific allotment of time per task. The Supreme
Court has advised that although counsel “is not
required to record in great detail how each minute of his
time was expended, ” counsel “should maintain
billing time records in a manner that will enable a reviewing
court to identify distinct claims.” Hensley,
461 U.S. at 437 & n.12. For example, an entry on November
11, 2016 states, “Detailed review of discovery
responses; strategy development re additional discovery
needed; strategy development re reply in support of motions
and sanctions to exclude evidence; revise meet and confer
letter regarding deficient discovery responses” and
bills for 1.50 hours of work. (ECF Nos. 44 at 3, 44-3 at 11.)
The block billing and vague descriptions make it quite
difficult for the court to discern how much time was actually
spent on particular activities; therefore, the court will
reduce the fee award accordingly. See Hensley, 461
U.S. at 433.
Ms. Goddard's records show that she billed her time in
quarter-hour increments. (ECF Nos. 44 at 2-3, 44-3.) This is
worrisome to the court as billing in quarter-hour increments
is less reliable than billing in tenth-hour increments and
risks bill inflation. See Welch v. Metro. Life Ins.
Co., 480 F.3d 942, 948-49 (9th Cir. 2007); see also
Edwards, 897 F.Supp. at 461. For example, a billing
entry on August 15, 2016, states, “Review of email from
opposing counsel re discovery; develop strategy for response
to same; email to counsel” and bills 0.50 hours. (ECF
Nos. 44 at 2, 44-3 at 3.) Not only is this entry block
billed, but it also illustrates the court's concern with
quarter-hour billing as it is hard for the court to believe
that reading and responding to an email took counsel 0.50
hours. Further, the court is not persuaded by defendants'
argument that billing in quarter-hour increments is
“widely accepted” and does not find the cited
cases persuasive. (ECF No. 49 at 5-7.) Defendants cite to
several cases in other districts and circuit courts, in
addition to a 1993 case in the District of Nevada where
quarter-hour billing was upheld. (Id.) The court is
more persuaded by the 1995 decision in Edwards v.
Nat'l Business Factors, Inc., where the court was
similarly troubled by the use of quarter-hour incremental
billing and reduced the fee award accordingly. See
Edwards, 897 F.Supp. at 461. Additionally, defendants
cite to two other cases that were before the District of
Nevada in which they state that their firm's utilization
of quarter-hour increments was upheld. (Id. at 7.)
However, upon review of the cited cases, neither case
specifically discussed the quarter-hour billing practice.
See Hussein S. Hussein v. Nevada System of Higher
Education, et al., Case No. 3:04-cv-00455-JCM-GWF (ECF
No. 833; Nevada Controls, LLC v. Wind Pump Power, LLC, et
al., Case No. 3:12-cv- 00068-HDM-VPC (ECF No. 79).
Because the issue of quarter-hour billing was not fully
briefed before the court, those cases are not useful to this
court's analysis. Therefore, this court finds that the
use of billing in quarter-hour increments is less reliable
and a reduction of the fee award is appropriate. See
Hensley, 461 U.S. at 433.
combination of block billing, vague descriptions, and billing
in quarter-hour increments leads this court to find that the
hours reported are unreasonable. Based on the above, the
court finds that a blanket reduction of the requested fees in
the amount of twenty percent is appropriate and consistent
with other attorneys' fee awards under similar
situations. See, e.g., Welch, 480 F.3d at
948; Oracle USA, Inc. v. Rimini Street, ...