United States District Court, D. Nevada
before the court is plaintiff Daniel Vargas's motion for
attorney's fees. (ECF No. 92). Defendants Shaun Briley,
Richard Gloeckner, James Goodson, Amber Howell, Deborah
Knotts, Steve McBride, John Olson, and Russel Taylor filed a
response (ECF No. 99), to which plaintiff replied (ECF No.
is a civil rights litigant who challenged defendants'
treatment of him at the Nevada Youth Training Center
(“NYTC, ” a center for juvenile delinquents).
(ECF No. 10). The parties are well aware of the allegations
in the underlying complaint, which the court detailed in its
order on defendants' motions for summary judgment. (ECF
was initially represented by Al Lasso of Lasso Injury Law and
Paola Armeni, who was then working for Gordon
Silver. (ECF No. 92). On November 13, 2015,
Christiansen Law Offices (“CLO”) associated as
counsel for plaintiff. Id.
sought damages between $1, 136, 453.62 and $1, 541, 833.62,
exclusive of emotional distress, future medical expenses,
disability services, and pain and suffering from the date of
the incident. (ECF No. 100 at 160). Plaintiff's damages
calculation included alleged past medical expenses of $119,
parties settled the case on March 9, 2017, for $99, 999. (ECF
No. 101 at 184). The settlement included a clause stating
that plaintiff was the prevailing party and his attorney
could move for attorney's fees pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1988. Id. The settlement did not contain an
admission of fault by defendants or request injunctive
relief. Id. at 183-190.
Rule of Civil Procedure 54(d)(2) allows a party to file a
motion for attorney's fees if it: (1) is filed within 14
days after judgment is entered; (2) identifies the legal
basis for the award; and (3) indicates the amount requested
or an estimate thereof.
42 U.S.C. § 1988(b) authorizes a court to exercise its
discretion whether to allow a prevailing party in a 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 case “reasonable attorney's fee as part
of the costs.” Reasonable attorney's fees are based
on the “lodestar” calculation set forth in
Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983). The
court must first determine a reasonable fee by multiplying
“the number of hours reasonably expended on the
litigation” by “a reasonable hourly rate.”
Id. “The district court . . . should exclude
from this initial fee calculation hours that were ‘not
reasonably expended.'” Id. at 433-34.
Thus, 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
Bus. Factors, Inc., 897 F.Supp. 458, 460-61 (D. Nev.
calculating the lodestar amount, the court can further adjust
the lodestar calculation by considering the following
(1) the time and labor required, (2) the novelty and
difficulty of the questions involved, (3) the skill requisite
to perform the legal service properly, (4) the preclusion of
other employment by the attorney due to acceptance of the
case, (5) the customary fee, (6) whether the fee is fixed or
contingent, (7) time limitations imposed by the client or the
circumstances, (8) the amount involved and the results
obtained, (9) the experience, reputation, and ability of the
attorneys, (10) the ‘undesirability' of the case,
(11) the nature and length of the professional relationship
with the client, and (12) awards in similar cases.
Kerr v. Screen Extras Guild, Inc., 526 F.2d 67, 70
(9th Cir. 1975), abrogated on other grounds by City of
Burlington v. Dague, 505 U.S. 557 (1992); see also
Stetson v. Grissom, 821 F.3d 1157, 1166-67 (9th Cir.
2016). A court's explanation of an attorney's fees
award “need not be elaborate, but it must be
comprehensible.” Moreno v. City of Sacramento,
534 F.3d 1106, 1111 (9th Cir. 2008). “As
Hensley described it, the explanation must be
concise but clear.” Id. (quotation
Request for attorney's fees
motion seeks $254, 361.58 in attorney's fees. (ECF No. 92
at 9). The fee breakdown attributes $197, 675.00 to CLO, $32,
120.00 to Lasso Injury Law, and $24, 566.58 to Gentile
Cristalli Miller Armeni Savarese
argue that plaintiff's problems with his case were
knowable ex ante, and plaintiff's attorneys
pursued unwise litigation strategies in attempts to
artificially inflate the importance of the
case. Defendant asserts that the majority of
plaintiff's hours spent on this case were unreasonable,
and plaintiff's request should be cut by 90%. (ECF No. 99
Ninth Circuit has described a reasonable number of hours in
the context of civil rights litigation as “[t]he number
of hours . . . [that] could reasonably have been billed to a
private client.” Moreno, 534 F.3d at 1111.
“Lawyers might reasonably spend $148, 000 worth of time
to win $234, 000. But no reasonable person would pay lawyers
$148, 000 to win $34, 000.” McGinnis v. Kentucky
Fried Chicken of Cal., 51 F.3d 805, 810 (9th Cir. 1994).
using the lodestar method, “court[s] [are] not required
to set forth an hour-by-hour analysis of the fee
request.” Gates v. Deukmejian, 987 F.2d 1392,
1399 (9th Cir. 1992). Courts can “make across-the-board
percentage cuts either in the number of hours claims or in
the final lodestar figure as a practical means of [excluding
unreasonable hours] from a fee application.”
Id. When performing such reductions, the court
should explain its reasoning. Gonzalez v. City of
Maywood, 729 F.3d 1196, 1203 (9th Cir. 2013).
The propriety of the request as related to Christiansen Law
plaintiff requests $197, 675.00 in attorney's fees based
on the work performed by attorneys at Christiansen Law
Offices. Attorney Terry, the senior lawyer, billed 334.8
hours at $550 an hour. Attorney Barrett, a junior associate,
billed 21.80 hours at $450 an hour. Attorney Perdue, a
first-year associate at the time, billed 10.50 hours at $350
an hour. Virginia Cano, a law clerk, billed 0.5 hours at $100
argues that counsel “exercised judgment in structuring
the work on this matter to maximize efficiencies, and the
hours listed in the fee request are neither duplicative,
unnecessary, or excessive.” (ECF No. 92 at 10).
Plaintiff's primary counsel chose to have its senior
attorney, who bills $550 an hour to private clients, spend
335 hours on this case and only delegate 32 hours to junior
associates. (ECF No. 92 at 9). The senior attorney spent an
inordinate amount of time conducting tasks that could have
been delegated to an attorney with less experience (and a
lower billing rate) or to a paralegal. (See ECF
No. 92 at 26-35). These tasks include discovery review,
creating a timeline of events, preparing stipulations and
notices, and conducting extensive legal research, amongst
others. See Id. Plaintiff's motion, affidavit,
and billing entries do not demonstrate appropriate judgment
in structuring workload to maximize efficiencies.
plaintiff's itemization of work contains numerous
redundancies and demonstrates that counsel spent an
unreasonable amount of time getting up to speed on the case,
conducting discovery review, and drafting motions.
Id. Additionally, defendants note a filing on August
19, 2016, related to a motion for reconsideration might be ...