Defendant Tustin Unified School District’s (“TUSD”) motion for attorney’s fees against plaintiff 1901 First Street Owner, LLC, pursuant to C.C.P. § 425.16(c), is GRANTED in the sum of $95,945.32.
C.C.P. § 425.16(c) has been interpreted to permit recovery of only reasonable attorney’s fees and costs. See, Robertson v. Rodriguez (1995) 36 Cal.App.4th 347, 362. The court applied its own knowledge in evaluating the challenges raised by plaintiff 1901 First Street Owner, LLC as set forth in plaintiff’s memorandum and the supporting declaration of attorney Nedda Mehrou and the court did not consider attorney Mahrou an expert in the areas of attorney’s fees and/or reasonableness. See, PLCM Group, Inc. v. Drexler (2000) 22 Cal.4th 1084, 1095.
The lodestar calculation (respective hourly rates multiplied by hours worked) provides the total sum of $122,585.65 sought by TUSD. (Reply, 10:19.) The Court reduces that amount on two separate bases.
First, TUSD concedes that as to a total of $2,654, the fees were related to the writ proceedings and not the anti-SLAPP motion.
Second, the Court concludes that there were in certain instances simply excessive time spent, and in others unnecessary duplication of effort. As to excessive hours, by way of example, between September 1, 2015 and October 9, 2015 (when the motion was filed), hours spent on legal research and drafting of the motion (including the declarations) amount to approximately 82 hours. While anti-SLAP motions fall into the category of complicated motions, there was nothing particularly unusual about this one, to justify those hours. As to unnecessary duplication of effort, again by way of example, entries during that same timeframe show various attorneys working on the same issues, including preparation of the various declarations. Once Plaintiff’s opposition was filed and served, the same pattern is apparent in preparing the Reply. Regarding the appeal, especially in the August 2017 timeframe, numerous block entries of 6.5 hours, 7.5 hours, 8.5 hours, 6.60 hours, 4.40 hours, 5.0 hours, and so on, again (particularly in the context of all the other hours being simultaneously billed) reflect excessive time given the issues presented. Under the circumstances, the Court concludes that rather than attempting a surgical adjustment with respect to the myriad of particular claimed fees, a downward adjustment of 20% on the lodestar amount (after first deducting $2,654) is appropriate to reflect the reasonable fees incurred in the motion and on appeal. In making this adjustment, the Court notes that counsels’ claimed hourly rates are reasonable throughout, and the adjustment is based only on the hours worked. The amount awarded is based upon the overall nature of the issues presented, their difficulty, the amount(s) involved, the skill required and employed in handling the matter, the attention given, the success of the attorneys’ efforts, the intricacies and importance of the litigation, the labor and necessity for skilled legal training and ability in trying the cause, and the time consumed. Church of Scientology v. Wollersheim (1996) 42 Cal.App.4th 628, 659 [disapproved on other grounds in Equilon Enterprises v. Consumer Cause, Inc. (2002) 29 Cal.4th 53].
Plaintiff 1901 First Street Owner, LLC’s objection to attorney Wiles’ supplemental declaration is OVERRULED; the grounds for the objected paragraphs are not set forth and the court in any event finds attorney Wiles’ supplemental declaration responsive to the challenges raised in plaintiff’s opposition, particularly the declaration of attorney Mehrou.
Moving party to give notice.