LeFay et al v. LeFay et al, No. 1:2013cv01362 - Document 117 (E.D. Cal. 2015)

Court Description: ORDER on Application 107 108 for Reconsideration Regarding Court's Order Granting Plaintiffs' Attorney's Fees, signed by District Judge Anthony W. Ishii on 5/8/2015. (IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that: 1. Defendants' application for r econsideration regarding court's order granting Plaintiffs' attorney's fees is DENIED; and 2. Plaintiffs' request for an increase in the amount of attorney's fees by $1,120 for the 3.2 hours spent preparing their opposition to this motion is GRANTED.) (Gaumnitz, R)

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1 2 3 4 5 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 6 EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 7 8 9 SHARRON LEFAY; JEFF WALL; SCOTT WALL, 11 12 13 14 15 ORDER ON APPLICATION FOR RECONSIDERATION REGARDING COURT’S ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFFS ATTORNEY’S FEES Plaintiffs 10 CASE NO. 1:13-CV-01362-AWI-MJS v. WILLIAM LEFAY; FRESNO POLICE OFFICER ERIC PANABAKER; FRESNO POLICE SGT. LEN GLEIM; FRESNO POLICE DET. JOHN GOMES; DOES 1 TO 10. (Doc. No. 107) Defendants 16 17 This matter involves Defendants application for reconsideration of the February 13, 2015 18 decision by the Magistrate Judge on Plaintiffs motion for attorney s fees. In this decision, the 19 Magistrate Judge awarded $10,395.00 in attorney s fees to Plaintiffs after previously granting 20 Defendants motion to modify. For the reasons below, we deny Defendants current motion for 21 reconsideration and grant Plaintiffs request that the fee award be increased by $1,120 for the 3.2 22 hours spent preparing their opposition to the present motion. 23 DEFENDANTS’ MOTION 24 25 Factual Background 26 This case involves a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 civil rights action, with multiple supplemental state 27 law claims, arising out of Defendants actions in seeking and obtaining a medical commitment of 28 Sharron Lefay against her will under California Welfare and Institutions Code section 5150. See 1 Doc. 17. A scheduling conference was held on the matter on December 13, 2013, and on 2 December 16, 2013, a scheduling order was issued directing the parties to disclose expert 3 witnesses on or before July 18, 2014, with supplementation, if any, of the disclosures to be made 4 on or before August 18, 2014. See Doc. 15. The parties were ordered to complete all discovery 5 by September 19, 2014. Id. Upon stipulation of the parties, the Magistrate Judge extended the 6 expert designation date to August 18, 2014, and the supplemental designation deadline to 7 September 1, 2014. See Doc. 30. 8 9 Plaintiffs fully complied with the expert disclosure requirements. See Doc. 65, 2:14-17. Defendants did not. Id. They timely identified their expert witnesses in accordance with the 10 court s order, but they did not provide reports of those experts as required by Federal Rule of Civil 11 Procedure 26(a)(2). Id. Plaintiffs objected to Defendants failure to fully comply with Rule 12 26(a)(2). On September 19, 2014, Defendants filed motions seeking an order modifying the 13 scheduling order to allow additional time for expert disclosure and discovery of Defendants 14 experts. See Doc. 38, 40. On November 11, 2014, the Magistrate Judge provided Defendants 15 with the relief they sought, but ordered that Defendants should pay Plaintiffs their reasonable 16 attorney fees incurred in bringing and arguing these motions. See Doc. 65, 12:3-13. On February 17 13, 2014, after additional briefing, the Magistrate Judge granted Plaintiffs motion for attorney 18 fees in the amount of $10,395.00. See Doc. 106, 116. On March 3, 2015, Defendants filed the 19 present motion seeking reconsideration of this ruling. See Doc. 108. 20 Defendants’ Argument 21 The thrust of Defendants argument is that the granting of attorney fees against them was 22 not warranted as they prevailed on the underlying motion to modify the schedule. Defendants 23 further emphasize that they did not willfully disobey a court order, engage in bad faith, or 24 gamesmanship; that modifying the scheduling order did not create a disruption of the court s 25 docket; and that in granting the motion the court noted there had been innocent, good faith delays 26 on both sides in the case. 27 28 In the alternative, Defendants request this court to reconsider the amount awarded for attorney s fees and challenge numerous individual entries in Plaintiffs fee invoice. Defendants 2 1 argue that they did not present detailed argument to the Magistrate Judge regarding Plaintiffs 2 itemization of attorney s fees because they did not believe that the court would award attorney s 3 fees. Thus, they focused their arguments on the fact that the fees were unreasonable as a whole. 4 They also mention that they requested in their opposition to the motion for attorney s fees the 5 opportunity to brief challenges to individual entries if the court in fact awarded fees. 6 Plaintiffs’ Opposition 7 Plaintiffs argue that to succeed Defendants have to show that the Magistrate Judge s ruling 8 was clearly erroneous or contrary to law. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A); Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(a). 9 Defendants did not contest their noncompliance with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(a)(2)(B) 10 by failing to meet the deadline the motion to modify the schedule was based upon. Nor did 11 Defendants dispute that the Magistrate Judge had legal authority to condition his granting the 12 motion on an award of attorney s fees. Indeed, this is permitted by Federal Rule of Civil 13 Procedure 37(c)(1)(A). 14 Instead, Plaintiffs assert, Defendants are challenging the Magistrate Judge s factual 15 findings, which requires a showing that those findings were clearly erroneous. See 28 U.S.C. § 16 636(b)(1)(A). Therefore, the argument that the Magistrate Judge s findings do not support his fee 17 ruling fails because Defendants do not provide a copy of those findings, identify which findings in 18 particular are alleged to be clearly erroneous, or make specific arguments as to why any particular 19 findings were in fact clearly erroneous. Likewise, Defendants challenge to the amount of the fees 20 awarded and the time entries fails to mention any aspect of the Magistrate Judge s ruling. Thus, 21 the Defendants are arguing these issues as if de novo, instead of in accordance with the clearly 22 erroneous standard. 23 Plaintiffs also emphasize that Defendants stated their decision not to challenge the amount 24 of the fee award and various time entries was a calculated decision. But absent “exceptional 25 circumstances,” a district judge need not entertain arguments raised for the first time in a request 26 for reconsideration of a magistrate judge s order or recommendation. Plaintiffs assert that 27 Defendants strategic decision to forego the argument does not constitute “exceptional 28 circumstances.” 3 1 In a footnote, Plaintiffs point out that since the actual ruling was made on the record on 2 February 13, 2015, Defendants reconsideration motion is untimely under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and 3 Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(a) because the reconsideration motion was due on February 4 27, 2015. Instead, it was filed March 3, 2015. 5 6 Last, Plaintiffs counsel requests the amount of fees awarded by increased by $1,120 for the 3.2 hours spent preparing their opposition to the present motion. 7 Legal Standard 8 Motions to reconsider are committed to the discretion of the trial court. Rodgers v. Watt, 9 722 F.2d 456, 460 (9th Cir. 1983) (en banc); Combs v. Nick Garin Trucking, 825 F.2d 437, 441 10 (D.C. Cir. 1987). To succeed, a party must set forth facts or law of a strongly convincing nature to 11 induce the court to reverse its prior decision. See, e.g., Kern-Tulare Water Dist. v. City of 12 Bakersfield, 634 F.Supp. 656, 665 (E.D. Cal. 1986), aff'd in part and rev'd in part on other 13 grounds, 828 F.2d 514 (9th Cir. 1987). When filing a motion for reconsideration, Local Rule 14 78-230(k) requires a party to show the “new or different facts or circumstances claimed to exist 15 which did not exist or were not shown upon such prior motion, or what other grounds exist for the 16 motion.” 17 The court reviews a motion to reconsider a magistrate judge's ruling under the “clearly 18 erroneous or contrary to law” standard set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) and Rule 72(a). “A 19 finding is „clearly erroneous' when although there is evidence to support it, the reviewing court on 20 the entire evidence is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been 21 committed.” United States v. U.S. Gypsum Co., 333 U.S. 364, 395 (1948); see also Anderson v. 22 Equifax Info. Services LLC, 2007 WL 2412249, at *1 (D. Or. 2007) (“Though Section 23 636(b)(1)(A) has been interpreted to permit de novo review of the legal findings of a magistrate 24 judge, magistrate judges are given broad discretion on discovery matters and should not be 25 overruled absent a showing of clear abuse of discretion.”). 26 Discussion 27 As previously mentioned, Defendants bring two core grounds for reconsideration of the 28 Magistrate Judge s attorney s fees ruling in this matter: (1) that the attorney s fees ruling as a 4 1 whole was improper because they prevailed on the underlying motion and (2) that, in the 2 alternative, the amount of the attorney s fees awarded should have been less as individual times 3 entries were erroneous. Attorney s Fees Ruling 4 1. 5 As to the first ground, a district court must defer to a magistrate judge's non-dispositive 6 order unless it is “clearly erroneous or contrary to law.” Grimes v. City & County of San 7 Francisco, 951 F.2d 236, 241 (9th Cir. 1991) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(a)). The Magistrate 8 Judge's February 13, 2015 attorney s fee order was neither clearly erroneous nor contrary to law. 9 In his oral judgment, the Magistrate Judge ruled that: 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 “I saw that there was a question as to – well, there was a question as to the – whether the Court had made a clerical error and, in fact, it intended to award fees to the defense as they prevailed on the motion. And let me assure you it was not a clerical error. The Court did exactly what it intended to do and for the reasons I ll discuss here. There was a question as to the authority for the fee award. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 13(c)(1) was cited in the order. It was clearly, I think, clearly set forth as the basis for the fee award. And from a logical standpoint, I don t have the statute right in front of me, but basically it provides that the Court has the authority to award fees in addition to or separate from any other relief that it arises, words to that effect, or it awards, words to that effect. In this case, it seems like – it still seems like, to the Court anyway, of course I m going to justify what I did. But it seems like a perfectly logical thing to do. It s clearly authorized under the clear wording of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37(c)(1)(A). In this case, the defendants failed to comply with a court order. There was no question but that there was a failure. The Court s already so found. The Court was asked to give them relief from that failure. The Court did. But found that the – in effect, that the plaintiff should not be penalized as a result of the defendants failure to comply with the Court order.” Doc. 116, 6:1-7:2. 21 There is no dispute that defendants did not comply with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 22 26(a)(2)(B) when they failed to meet the deadline their motion to modify the schedule was based 23 upon. The court granted them relief, but awarded attorney s fees against them to ameliorate the 24 prejudice suffered by Plaintiffs. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37(c)(1)(A) explicitly gives the 25 26 court authority to award expenses, including attorney s fees, where a party fails to make a disclosure required by Rule 26. Accordingly, the Magistrate Judge s attorney s fee order was 27 neither clearly erroneous nor contrary to law. 28 5 1 2. 2 Defendants now also challenge for the first time the accuracy of the individual time entries. Individual Time Entries 3 Because Defendants could have originally presented this argument to the Magistrate Judge, they 4 have improperly raised it for the first time in the instant motion for reconsideration. See Jones v. 5 Sweeney, 2008 WL 3892111, at *2 (E.D.Cal. Aug.21, 2008) (Ishii, C.J.) (“Motions for 6 reconsideration and objections to a Magistrate Judge's order are not the place for a party to make a 7 new argument and raise facts not addressed in his original brief.” (citing Zimmerman v. City of 8 Oakland, 255 F.3d 734, 740 (9th Cir. 2001); Rosenfeld v. U.S. Dep't of Justice, 57 F.3d 803, 811 9 (9th Cir. 1995); Nw. Acceptance Corp. v. Lynnwood Equip., Inc., 841 F.2d 918, 925–26 (9th Cir. 10 1988))). Absent “exceptional circumstances,” a district judge need not entertain arguments raised 11 for the first time in a request for reconsideration of a magistrate judge s order or recommendation. 12 See Sarkist v. Graham Packaging Co., 2014 U.S. Dis. LEXIS 159972 (E.D. Cal. 2014). 13 Defendants state that they did not present detailed argument to the Magistrate Judge regarding 14 Plaintiffs itemization of attorney s fees because they did not believe that the court would award 15 attorney s fees. They also mention that they requested in their opposition to the motion for 16 attorney s fees the opportunity to brief challenges to individual entries if the court in fact awarded 17 fees. However, the court finds that this strategic decision to forego the argument to the Magistrate 18 Judge does not constitute “exceptional circumstances.” Accordingly, this claim fails. 19 3. 20 Plaintiffs counsel requests the amount of fees awarded be increased by $1,120 for the 3.2 21 hours spent preparing their opposition to the present motion. “It s now well established that time 22 spent in preparing fee applications under 42 U.S.C. § 1988 is compensable.” Anderson v. 23 Director, OWCP, 91 F.3d 1322, 1325 (9th Cir. 1996). This court does not find merit in 24 Defendants current motion and accordingly finds it appropriate to increase the amount of the fees 25 awarded by $1,120 for the 3.2 hours Plaintiffs spent preparing their opposition. Additional Costs 26 27 28 6 1 ORDER 2 Accordingly, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that: 3 1. 4 Plaintiffs attorney s fees is DENIED; and 5 2. 6 3.2 hours spent preparing their opposition to this motion is GRANTED. Defendants application for reconsideration regarding court s order granting Plaintiffs request for an increase in the amount of attorney s fees by $1,120 for the 7 8 9 IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: May 8, 2015 SENIOR DISTRICT JUDGE 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 7

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