United States District Court, D. Oregon
COLUMBIA RIVERKEEPER, a non-profit Washington corporation, Plaintiff,
U.S. ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS, a United States agency, Defendant.
Christopher G. Winter, Crag Law Center, Portland, Oregon, Miles B. Johnson, Lauren Goldberg, Columbia Riverkeeper, Hood River, Oregon, Attorneys for plaintiff.
Billy J. Williams, Kevin Danielson, United States Attorney's Office, Portland, Oregon, Attorneys for defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
PAUL PAPAK, Magistrate Judge.
The matter before the Court is plaintiff Columbia Riverkeeper's ("CRK") motion for attorney fees and litigation costs (# 63). For the reasons set forth below, CRK's motion is granted in part and denied in part, in that CRK is awarded attorney fees in the reduced amount of $86, 878.04 and litigation costs in the reduced sum of $2, 411.54.
On August 26, 2013, CRK initiated this lawsuit to compel the production of ninety-one documents defendant the United States Army Corps of Engineers ("Corps") claimed were exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA"). On August 14, 2014, this Court partially granted CRK's motion for summary judgment and ordered the Corps to produce all but one of the disputed documents. Opinion and Order, # 41. On February 9, 2015, CRK filed the instant motion pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(E) and Local Rule 54-1, requesting $120, 414.50 in attorney fees and $6, 097.04 in litigation costs. Motion for Attorney Fees and Litigation Costs, # 63, at 2. In its subsequent reply brief, CRK requested an additional $14, 095.50 for preparation of its fee petition, bringing the total requested attorney fees to $134, 510. Reply to Motion for Attorney Fees and Litigation Costs, # 71, at 8.
The prevailing party in an FOIA action must demonstrate that it is both eligible for and entitled to attorney fees in order to receive such an award. Long v. U.S. Internal Revenue Serv.., 932 F.2d 1309, 1313 (9th Cir. 1991) (citation omitted). Once these elements are established, the prevailing party "must submit [a] fee bill to the court for its scrutiny of [its] reasonableness." Id. at 1313-14 (citations omitted). in evaluating a reasonable attorney fee, the court multiplies "the number of hours the prevailing party reasonably expended on litigation by a reasonable hourly rate." Morales v. City of San Rafael, 96 F.3d 359, 363 (9th Cir. 1996) (as amended) (discussing the lodestar method). The lodestar amount is presumptively reasonable but a court may make adjustments based on a number of factors. See Kerr v. Screen Guild Extras, Inc., 526 F.2d. 67, 70 (9th Cir. 1975), cert. denied, 425 U.S. 951 (1976) (outlining twelve factors to be considered by the court when adjusting the lodestar amount).
The district court is required to ensure an award's reasonableness, regardless of whether the opposing party objected to it. Gates v. Deukmejian, 987 F.2d 1392, 1400-02 (9th Cir. 1992). The court also possesses "considerable discretion... in determining what attorney's fee is reasonable." Webb v. Ada Cnty., Idaho, 195 F.3d 524, 526-27 (9th Cir. 1999), cert. denied, 537 U.S. 948 (2002). Accordingly, "the reasonable fee, as calculated by the district court, may fall short of the actual fee that the... lawyer charges." Corder v. Gates, 947 F.2d 374, 378 n.3 (9th Cir. 1991) (citation and internal quotations omitted).
It is undisputed that CRK is both eligible for and entitled to an award of attorney fees due to the fact that it substantially prevailed on its FOIA claims. 5 U.S.C. § 552(a)(4)(E); Response to Motion for Attorney Fees and Litigation Costs, # 70, at 2. Thus, the sole issue before the Court is whether the rates and number of hours requested by CRK are reasonable.
I. Reasonableness of the Requested Hourly Rates
CRK seeks the following hourly rates for work performed by attorney Christopher G. Winter, who passed the bar in 1998: $395 for his 2013 work, $405 for his 2014 work, and $415 for his 2015 work. Motion for Attorney Fees and Litigation Costs, # 63, at 7. For attorney Miles B. Johnson, who passed the bar in 2012, CRK requests the following hourly rates: $200 for his 2013 work and $220 for his 2014-15 work. Id. at 9.
In determining a reasonable hourly rate, the district court looks to "the rate prevailing in the community for similar work performed by attorneys of comparable skill, experience, and reputation." Chalmers v. City of L.A., 796 F.2d 1205, 1210-11 (9th Cir. 1986). "The general rule is that the relevant community for purposes of the prevailing rate is the forum in which the district court sits." Prison Legal News v. Umatilla Cnty., 2013 WL 2156471, *5 (D. Or. May 16, 2013) (citations omitted). "This District considers the most recent Oregon State Bar Economic Survey (OSB Survey') as its initial benchmark' in determining whether hourly billing rates are reasonable." Id. at ...