United States District Court, D. Oregon, Medford Division
OPINION & ORDER
D. CLARKE, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Matthew Wilson filed this action on May 16, 2016, alleging
violation of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act
("FLSA"), as well as Oregon state law wage and hour
claims. ECF No. 1. Litigation proceeded for nearly two years
and a No. of claims were eliminated. After dispositive
motions, but before trial, the parties engaged in a judicial
settlement conference at which they were able to successfully
reach an agreement concerning the remaining claims. ECF Nos.
Ill. 112, 113. Pursuant to that negotiated settlement, a
judgment was entered on April 24, 2018, directing Defendants
to pay $20, 500 to Wilson, "plus reasonable attorney
fees and costs to be determined by the Court pursuant to FRCP
54(d)." ECF No. 115.
8, 2018, the Wilson filed a Motion for Attorney Fees, ECF No.
116, in which he sought an award of fees and costs in the
amount of $138, 636.22, later increased to $141, 082.50.
Defendants do not contest that Wilson is the prevailing party
and therefore entitled to fees and costs, but dispute the
reasonableness of the requested award. The Court heard oral
argument on August 6, 2018, and all parties have consented to
the jurisdiction by a magistrate judge. ECF Nos. 107, 135.
The motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.
prevailing party is entitled to recover his fees, expenses,
and costs pursuant to the fee-shifting provisions of 29
U.S.C. § 216(b) and ORS 652.200, ORS 653.055(4), and ORS
659A.885(1). See also Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(d) (prevailing party
entitled to costs and attorney fees if provided by statute,
rule, or order); LR 54-1; 54-3 (providing same).
Ninth Circuit has adopted the "lodestar" method for
calculating attorney fees. Camacho v. Bridgeport Fin.,
Inc., 523 F.3d 973, 978 (9th Cir. 2008). That
calculation multiplies a reasonable hourly rate by the No. of
hours reasonably expended in the litigation. Hensley v.
Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983); Pennsylvania v.
Del. Valley Citizens' Council for Clean Air, 478
U.S. 546, 564 (1986). The court must then decide whether to
enhance or reduce the lodestar figure by evaluating a No. of
factors. Moreno v. City of Sacremento, 534 F.3d
1106, 1111 (9th Cir. 2008).
court may adjust the lodestar to account for factors such as:
(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
Actors Guild, Inc., 526 F.2d 67, 70 (9th Cir. 1975). The
court need only consider the factors not already subsumed in
the initial lodestar calculation. Fischer v. SJB-P.D.,
Inc., 214 F.3d 1115, 1119 n.4 (9th Cir. 2000).
is a strong presumption that the lodestar method produces a
reasonable figure and should only be enhanced or reduced in
exceptional circumstances. Del. Valley Citizens, 478 U.S. at
565; Fischer, 214 F.3d at 1119 n.4. Courts have discretion,
however, to adjust the lodestar figure either: (1) downward
if the plaintiff has achieved only partial or limited success
or if the fee is otherwise unreasonable, Hensley,
461 U.S. at 435-36, or (2) upward in "rare" and
"exceptional" cases. Del. Valley Citizens, 478 U.S.
seeks an award of $141, 082.50 in attorney fees and $4,
153.72 in costs. Defendants challenge both the rates and
hours claimed by Wilson and argue for $21, 905.25 in attorney
fees and $400 in costs.
calculation of reasonable attorney fees begins with the
lodestar calculation. The Court must therefore determine the
reasonable hourly rate and multiply that rate by the No. of
hours reasonably expended in the case.
Reasonable Hourly Rate
reasonable hourly rate is determined by looking at
"prevailing market rates in the relevant
community," as well as the skill, experience, and
reputation of the lawyer. Blum v. Stenson, 465 U.S.
886, 895 (1984); United States v. $28, 000 in U.S.
Currency, 802 F.3d 1100, 1105 (9th Cir. 2015). The party
requesting the fees has the burden of producing
"satisfactory evidence," in addition to the
affidavits of counsel, that the requested rates are in step
with those "prevailing in the community for similar
services by lawyers of reasonably comparable skill,
experience, and reputation." Dang v. Cross, 422
F.3d 800, 814 (9th Cir. 2005) (internal quotation marks and
citation omitted). The best evidence of the prevailing rates
in Oregon is the Oregon State Bar Economic Survey, most
recently issued in 2017. LR 54-3; Roberts v. Interstate
Distrib. Co., 242 F.Supp.2d 850, 857 (D. Or. 2002);
Mumford v. Electric Inst., Inc., No.
3:15-cv-00375-AC, 2016 WL 8711693, at *2 (D. Or. April 29,
case, Wilson had the assistance of three attorneys: Quinn
Kuranz, Judy Snyder, and Holly Lloyd, as well as a paralegal,
Kuranz was Wilson's primary attorney in this case. Wilson
asserts that $300 per hour is a reasonable rate for
Kuranz's services, while Defendants argue for a reduced
rate of $250.
has been licensed to practice law in Oregon since 2011.
Kuranz Decl. ECF No. 117. The Economic Survey shows that an
average Oregon attorney with Kuranz's level of experience
(between 4 and 6 years) bills $231 per hour, with $257
representing the 75th percentile. Kuranz Decl. Ex. 14, at 38,
ECF No. 117-14.
is based in Portland and so urges the Court to apply the
rates for Portland attorneys: an average rate of $249 per
hour, with $300 as the 75th percentile. Id.
Defendants argue that, as this case was filed and litigated
in southern Oregon, the prevailing rates for attorneys in
that region should apply. Defendants are correct that, under
these circumstances, courts generally look to the rates
customarily charged in southern Oregon. See, e.g., Nance
v. May Trucking Co., No. 3:12-cv-01655-HZ, 2014 WL
6633111, at *3 (D. Or. Nov. 21, 2014) ("Generally the
relevant community is the forum in which the district court
sits." (internal quotation marks and citation omitted)).
The Court finds the declarations attesting to the general
lack of attorneys experienced with wage and hour claims in
southern Oregon to be persuasive, however. Breed Decl, ECF
No. 120; Dale Decl., ECF No. 121; Leiman Deck, ECF No. 122.
Furthermore, the Economic Survey has no data for attorneys
with Kuranz's level of experience in southern Oregon.
Kuranz Decl. Ex. 14, at 38. The Dale Declaration suggests
that the statewide averages might supply a reasonable
alternative, but this Court has previously looked to the
Portland rates as a starting point under similar
circumstances. Arthur v. Murphy Co.. Civ. No.
10-3142-CL, 2012 WL 3010996, at *3 (D. Or. July 23, 2012).
The Court will follow that practice in this case, although
for the sake of comparison it will note the statewide rates,
as well as the southern Oregon rates when they are available.
Court concludes that Kuranz's requested rate of $300 is
reasonable. It represents the 75th percentile for attorneys
with his level of experience in Portland and it does not
grossly exceed the average statewide rates for the same
Judy Snyder and Holly Lloyd
retained Portland-based attorney Judy Snyder to assist Kuranz
with the trial phase of the case. Kuranz Decl. Synder has
been practicing law in Oregon since 1973. Snyder Decl. ECF
No. 118. Wilson seeks attorney fees for Snyder at her
customary rate of $450 per hour. Id. The average
rate for attorneys with more than 30 years of experience is
$332 statewide, $413 in Portland, and $229 in southern
Oregon. Kuranz Decl. Ex. 14, at 40. In the Portland area,
$495 per hour represents the 75th percentile. Id. In
light of Snyder's considerable experience and reputation,
the Court concludes that a rate of $450 is reasonable.
Lloyd is an associate in Snyder's practice and was, like
Snyder, retained to assist Kuranz with the trial phase of
litigation. Syder Decl.; Kuranz Decl. Lloyd has been
practicing law since 1994. Snyder Decl. Lloyd's requested
rate is $375 per hour, which is the rate she customarily
charges her own clients. Snyder Decl. The average rate for
attorneys with Lloyd's level of experience is $307
statewide, $394 in Portland, and $248 in southern Oregon.
Kuranz Decl. Ex. 14, at 39. The 75th percentile is $350
statewide, $475 in Portland, and $275 in southern Oregon.
Id. Based on these figures, the Court concludes that
$375 is a reasonable rate for an attorney with Lloyd's
level of experience.
also seeks paralegal fees for the work performed by Kathryn
Arnett, at a rate of $125 per hour. Defendants assert that
Arnett is not a paralegal and, to the extent Wilson may
recover fees for her work, Arnett's rate should be $20
Oregon State Bar Economic Survey does not include information
about hourly rates charged by paralegals in Oregon. In
assessing claims for paralegal fees, courts within this
District have noted that "a reasonable hourly rate for a
paralegal should not exceed that of a first year
associate." Precision Seed Cleaners v. Country Mut.
Ins. Co., 976 F.Supp.2d 1228, 1248 (D. Or. 2013). That
determination is not the end of the inquiry, however, as
"the attorney hourly rate is used as a ceiling and is
not by itself determinative of a reasonable hourly
rate." Id. at 1249. Courts look closely at the
educational and occupational background of the paralegal in
question when crafting a reasonable rate. Id; see also
Muller v. County Mut. Ins. Co., No. 3:14-cv-01345-MO,
2017 WL 6209701, at *9 (D. Or. Dec. 8, 2017) ("I do not
find reasonable the requested $150 hourly rate, because it is
unclear from the record whether Ms. Calcagno has a paralegal
certification, or how long she has been a paralegal rather
than a legal assistant.").
Precision Seed Cleaners, the court declined to award
a paralegal fee rate of $170, finding it unreasonably high.
976 F.Supp.2d at 1249. Instead, the court awarded a rate of
$125 to a paralegal with a certification and ten years of
experience as a paralegal and a rate of $115 to a paralegal
with a degree in paralegal studies and an unknown number of
years of experience. Id. at 1248-49. In examining
the claims of the other paralegals, the court noted that none
of them had any education or experience as a paralegal,
although some had bachelor's degrees or experience
working as legal assistants. Id. at 1249. Under
those circumstances, the court found a rate of $50 per hour
to be reasonable. Id.
case, Arnett has a bachelor's degree in American Studies
and a background in legislative policy, including work with
an environmental lobbying group and in the offices of a
California state senator. Arnett Decl. ECF No. 119. It does
not appear from this record that Arnett has a degree or
certification qualifying her as a paralegal or any experience
working as a paralegal prior to her employment with Kuranz.
It is unclear how long Arnett has been Kuranz's legal
assistant, although her earliest billed hours date to January
2018 and so the Court infers that she has been employed in
that position for at least six months. Arnett Decl. Ex. 1, at
2. Accordingly, the Court concludes that the requested rate
of $125 per hour, which courts within this District have
awarded to paralegals with significant education and
experience in their field, is not reasonable. By the same
token, however, Defendants' suggestion of $20 per hour is
unreasonably low for an employee of Arnett's education
and experience and for the nature of the work she performed.
The Court concludes that a paralegal rate of $90 per hour is