United States District Court, D. Idaho
ADELA AYALA, individually, and as next friend of L.O.A., a minor child, Plaintiffs,
RICHARD M. ARMSTRONG, in his official capacity as Director of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare and ELKE SHAW-TULLOCH, in her official capacity as Administrator of the Division of Public Health, Bureau of Vital Records and Health Statistics, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
Lynn Winmill U.S. District Court Judge.
matter before the Court is the Plaintiffs' Motion for
Attorneys' Fees pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988(b).
Dkt. 61. Defendants ask the Court to reduce the award sought
by Plaintiffs. Dkt. 64. After reviewing the Parties'
briefs, the Court GRANTS Plaintiffs' request in part. The
Court will award Plaintiffs' attorneys' fees in the
amount of $227, 195.00.
to 42 U.S.C. § 1988(b), a court may award reasonable
attorney fees and costs to “the prevailing party”
in an action to enforce a provision of 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Plaintiffs' claims seeking to protect their federal Due
Process and Equal Protection rights through injunctive relief
was appropriately raised under § 1983. See Matsuda
v. City & County of Honolulu, 512 F.3d 1148, 1156
(9th Cir. 2008).
establishing that a plaintiff is entitled to attorney's
fees, the Court must calculate a reasonable fee award.
Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 434 (1983).
Generally, the “lodestar figure, ” which
multiplies the number of hours reasonably expended on the
litigation by a reasonable hourly rate, determines the amount
of the award. Id. “There is a strong
presumption that the lodestar figure represents a reasonable
fee. Only in rare instances should the lodestar figure be
adjusted on the basis of other considerations.”
Morales v. City of San Rafael, 96 F.3d 359, 363 n.8
(9th Cir. 1996).
do not dispute that Plaintiffs were the prevailing party, nor
do they dispute that Plaintiffs are entitled to
attorneys' fees pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988.
Additionally, Defendants do not object to the hourly rates
charged by Plaintiffs' attorneys. The sole disagreement
between the Parties is whether the number of hours expended
on this case by Plaintiffs' counsel is unreasonable.
Plaintiffs' counsel state that they spent 1, 011.60 hours
working on this case, and they request attorneys' fees in
the amount of $363, 360.00. Defendants ask the Court to
reduce the hours variable to 300 hours total, which would
result in an attorneys' fees award in the amount of $171,
Expended Hours by Plaintiffs' Counsel
total number of hours expended by Plaintiffs' counsel on
this case is unreasonable. Under § 1988, prevailing
parties may only be compensated for those hours of work that
were “reasonably expended” on the litigation.
See Hensley, 461 U.S. at 434. The moving party bears
the burden of establishing the hours claimed and must carry
this burden by submitting adequate documentation of those
hours. Id. at 437. Claimed hours “may be
reduced by the court where documentation of the hours is
inadequate, if the case was overstaffed and hours are
duplicated, [or] if the hours expended are deemed
excessive or otherwise unnecessary.”
Chalmers v. City of Los Angeles, 796 F.2d 1205, 2010
(9th Cir. 1986) (emphasis added). As discussed below, the
Court finds Plaintiffs' counsels' hours were
unreasonable because: (1) the pre-filing hours expended by
Plaintiffs' counsel were excessive, (2) Plaintiffs'
counsel filed poorly written briefs throughout the
proceeding, and (3) Plaintiffs' counsel raised numerous
legal arguments, in a “shotgun” fashion, that
were not dispositive in the litigation.
Plaintiffs' Counsels' Pre-Filing Expended Hours Are
begin with, Plaintiffs' counsel-who have a combined 50
years of experience as attorneys-fail to explain why they
required over 300 hours to prepare and file the complaint.
See Dkt. 61; Dkt. 65. The pre-filing hours amount to
almost a third of the total hours billed by Plaintiffs'
counsel. With such a large portion of the fee request coming
from this phase of the suit, the Court would expect a
reasoned explanation from Plaintiffs' counsel justifying
their hours. An experienced attorney, charging a high hourly
rate, is expected to be “more efficient at performing
the necessary tasks[.]” See Ferland v. Conrad
Credit Corp., 244 F.3d 1145, 1148 (9th Cir. 2001).
Absent a reasoned explanation by Plaintiffs' counsel, the
Court finds that the 300 hours sought for pre- complaint work
is excessive considering the experience of both attorneys and
the relative lack of complexity of the case. See
id.; Morales v. City of San Rafael, 96 F.3d
359, 363, 364 n.9 (9th Cir. 1996) (explaining that in
lodestar calculations, to determine reasonable attorneys'
fees award, the Court must take into account, among other
factors, the novelty and complexity of the issues, and the
skill and experience of the attorneys).
Plaintiffs' Briefing Was Generally Unhelpful
general, Plaintiffs' briefing throughout the proceedings
was not of the high quality that the Court expects of
attorneys who practice before it. By way of example, the
reply brief filed by Plaintiffs' counsel regarding their
Motion for Permanent Injunction was troubling. The Court
expects that a reply brief, perhaps more so than any other
submission to the Court, will build upon the briefing already
submitted, focus the Court's attention on what is really
at issue, and will be very succinct and to the point.
case, Plaintiffs' counsel simultaneously filed an
overlength brief and Motion for Leave to File Excess Pages,
Dkt. 20, one day before the filing deadline. The submitted
reply brief was riddled with grammatical and substantive
errors, was unfocused, and was unjustifiably longer than
permitted by Rule. The Court took virtually ...