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Idaho Building and Construction Trades Council, Afl-Cio, and v. Lawrence G. Wasden

April 16, 2012

IDAHO BUILDING AND CONSTRUCTION TRADES COUNCIL, AFL-CIO, AND SOUTHWEST IDAHO BUILDING AND CONSTRUCTION TRADES COUNCIL, AFL-CIO, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
LAWRENCE G. WASDEN, IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR THE STATE OF IDAHO,
DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: B. Lynn Winmill Chief JudgeUnited States District Court

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

INTRODUCTION

Before the Court is Plaintiffs' Motion for Attorney Fees (Dkt. 72). The matters are fully briefed and at issue. Being familiar with the record and having considered the briefing, the Court will grant Plaintiffs' Motion for Attorney Fees (Dkt.72).

BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs, Idaho Building and Construction Trades Council, AFL-CIO and the Southwest Idaho Building and Construction Trades Council, AFL-CIO (collectively "Trades Councils"), brought suit against Idaho Attorney General Lawrence G. Wasden, challenging two recent amendments to Idaho's Right-to-Work Act. Compl., Dkt. 1.Trade Councils alleged that these amendments-the "Open Access to Work Act," Idaho Code §44-2013, and the "Fairness in Contracting Act," Idaho Code §44-2012-interfered with the rights created by the National Labor Relations Act ("NLRA") and were therefore preempted. Id.

Trade Councils moved for a preliminary injunction to prevent the enforcement of the two amendments. Mot. Prelim. Inj., Dkt. 2. Wasden opposed the motion. Inland Pacific Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc. ("IPC ABC"), filed an amicus brief in support of Wasden's position. The Court heard oral arguments, and issued a preliminary injunction. Order, Dkt. 23.

Having succeeded at the preliminary injunction stage, Trade Councils moved to resolve the case on summary judgment, which is where the litigation became more complex. Wasden, as well as amicus curiae IPC ABC, opposed the motion. In addition, Wasden also filed a cross-motion for summary judgment, which IPC ABC and the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation ("NRTW") supported by filing amicus briefs. IPC ABC also sought to intervene. Accordingly, Trade Councils responded -- not only to Wasden's opposing briefing but also to the issues raise in the amicus brief opposing the motion, IPC ABC's motion to intervene, and finally, to Wasden's cross-motion for summary judgment and the two associated amicus briefs. The Court ultimately granted Trade Councils' summary judgment motion. Order, Dkt. 67.

Throughout this litigation, two law firms represented Trade Councils-the Boise law firm of Herzfeld & Piotrowski, LLP, and the Washington, D.C. law firm of Sherman, Dunn, Cohen, Leifer & Yellig, P.C. ("Sherman Dunn"). Trade Councils now seek attorney fees for these firms under the Civil Rights Attorney's Fees Awards Act of 1976, 42 U.S.C. §1988.

LEGAL STANDARD

While under the traditional American rule every party bears its own cost of litigation, an exception is created in § 1988 "to ensure effective access to the judicial process for persons with civil rights grievances." Hensley v. Eckhart, 461 U.S. 424, 429 (1983). That statute provides for attorney fees in "any action or proceeding to enforce a provision of [section 1983]." 42 U.S.C. § 1988(b).

Under the statute "a prevailing plaintiff should ordinarily recover an attorney's fee unless special circumstances would render such an award unjust. Mendez v. County of San Bernardino, 540 F.3d 1109, 1124 (9th Cir. 2008). Awarding attorney fees in these cases is "the rule rather than the exception." American Broadcasting Companies, Inc. v. Miller, 550 F.3d 786, 787 (9th Cir. 2008).

Once it is determined that the movant was the prevailing party entitled to fees under the statute, the court must determine the reasonable amount of attorney fees. Hensley, 461 U.S. at 432. This determination is done through a "'hybrid approach' under which the district court should first determine the lodestar amount.then, in its discretion, adjust the amount" in light of other considerations. Lyttle v. Carl, 382 F.3d 978, 988 (9th Cir. 2004) (edited for clarity).

The lodestar amount is, in turn, calculated by totaling the number of hours reasonably expended in the litigation, and multiplying that total by a reasonable hourly rate. Id. While historically courts have considered a number of factors, many of these factors have since been subsumed into the lodestar calculation. See Perdue v. Kenny A ex rel Winn, 130 S.Ct. 1662, 1674 (2010); Mendez, 540 F.3d 1128-29 (inadequate documentation such as block-billing); Cunningham v. County of Los Angeles, 879 F.2d 481 (9th Cir. 1988) (results obtained, and quality of representation). The remaining factors are those that may, in exceptional circumstances, justify adjusting the lodestar amount with a multiplier. Perdue, 130 S.Ct. at 1673; Cunningham, 879 F.2d at 487-88 (i.e. "Johnson/Kerr ...


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