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Campista v. Creditors Financial Group LLC

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

January 13, 2014

ANNETTE CAMPISTA, Plaintiff,
v.
CREDITORS FINANCIAL GROUP LLC., Defendant.

Bret Knewtson, Bret Knewtson, Esq., Hillsboro, OR, Young Walgenkim, Hanson & Walgenkim, LLC, Salem, OR, Attorneys for Plaintiff.

Jeffrey I. Hasson, Davenport & Hasson, LLP, Portland, OR, Attorneys for Defendant.

OPINION AND ORDER

MICHAEL H. SIMON, District Judge.

Plaintiff moves for an award of $13, 080 in attorney's fees and $421.32 in costs. Dkt. 27. Defendant objects that the bill of costs was not in the proper format and not properly verified and that the attorney's fees requested includes attorney time that was not reasonable, an unreasonable requested hourly rate for attorney Bret Knewtson, and insufficient verification. The Court finds that the requested costs and attorney's fees and expenses are reasonable.

DISCUSSION

A. Legal Standards

Plaintiff brought this action under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA"). The FDCPA provides that any debt collector who fails to comply with its provisions is liable "in the case of any successful action... [for] the costs of the action, together with a reasonable attorney's fee as determined by the court." 15 U.S.C. ยง 1692k(a)(3). As the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has acknowledged, "[t]he FDCPA's statutory language makes an award of fees mandatory." Camacho v. Bridgeport Fin., Inc., 523 F.3d 973, 978 (9th Cir. 2008). A district court's disposition of a motion for attorney's fees must "provide a reasonably specific explanation for all aspects of a fee determination" in order to allow for "adequate appellate review." Perdue v. Kenny A. ex rel. Winn, 559 U.S. 542, 558 (2010).

The preferred method of calculating reasonable attorney's fees is the "lodestar" method. Id. at 551-52. This is because the lodestar method produces an award that roughly approximates the fee that the prevailing attorney would have received if he or she had been representing a paying client who was billed by the hour in a comparable case, is readily administrable, and is objective. Id. Additionally, one purpose of the federal fee-shifting statutes is to ensure that prevailing plaintiffs' counsel receive a fee that is "sufficient to induce a capable attorney to undertake the representation of a meritorious... case." Id. at 552. The lodestar method of calculating attorney's fees yields a fee that is presumptively sufficient to achieve this objective. Id. Although the lodestar calculation results in a presumptively reasonable fee, this fee may be adjusted in certain circumstances. Id.

The lodestar amount is the product of the number of hours reasonably spent on the litigation[1] times a reasonable hourly rate. McCown v. City of Fontana, 565 F.3d 1097, 1102 (9th Cir. 2009). In making this calculation, the district court should take into consideration various reasonableness factors, including the quality of an attorney's performance, the results obtained, the novelty and complexity of a case, and the special skill and experience of counsel. See Perdue, 559 U.S. at 553-54; Gonzalez v. City of Maywood, 729 F.3d 1196, 1209 n.11 (9th Cir. 2013).

In determining the number of hours reasonably spent, "the district court should exclude hours that are excessive, redundant, or otherwise unnecessary.'" McCown, 565 F.3d at 1102 (quoting Hensley, 461 U.S. at 434). The party seeking an award of attorney's fees "has the burden of submitting billing records to establish that the number of hours it has requested [is] reasonable." Gonzalez, 729 F.3d at 1202.

After determining the number of hours reasonably spent, the district court then calculates the reasonable hourly rates for the attorneys and paralegals whose work comprise the reasonable number of hours used in calculating the lodestar amount. For this purpose, the "prevailing market rates in the relevant community' set the reasonable hourly rates." Gonzalez, 729 F.3d at 1205 (quoting Dang v. Cross, 422 F.3d 800, 813 (9th Cir. 2005)). "Generally, when determining a reasonable hourly rate, the relevant community is the forum in which the district court sits.'" Id. (quoting Prison Legal News v. Schwarzenegger, 608 F.3d 446, 454 (9th Cir. 2010)). Within this geographic community, the district court should consider the experience, skill, and reputation of the attorneys or paralegals involved. Id.

In determining reasonable hourly rates, typically "[a]ffidavits of the plaintiffs' attorney and other attorneys regarding prevailing fees in the community, and rate determinations in other cases, particularly those setting a rate for the plaintiffs' attorney, are satisfactory evidence of the prevailing market rate." United Steelworkers of Am. v. Phelps Dodge Corp., 896 F.2d 403, 407 (9th Cir. 1990). In addition, courts in the District of Oregon have the benefit of several reliable billing rate surveys. One useful survey is the Oregon State Bar 2012 Economic Survey ("OSB 2012 Survey"), which contains data on attorney billing rates based on type of practice, geographic area of practice, and years of practice. A copy of the OSB 2012 Survey is available at http://www.osbar.org/_docs/resources/Econsurveys/12EconomicSurvey.pdf (last visited on November 18, 2013).

There is a strong presumption that the fee arrived at through the lodestar calculation is a reasonable fee. Perdue, 559 U.S. at 552. A district court may, however, adjust the lodestar amount in "rare" and "exceptional" cases, such as when a particular factor bearing on the reasonableness of the attorney's fee is not adequately taken into account in the lodestar calculation.[2] See Perdue, 559 U.S. at 552-54 (finding that, in certain circumstances, the superior performance of counsel may not be adequately accounted for in the lodestar calculation); Cunningham v. Cnty. of Los Angeles, 879 F.2d 481, 488 (9th Cir. 1988) (finding that although in ordinary cases the "results obtained" factor is deemed adequately accounted for in the lodestar ...


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