Superior Consulting Services, Inc. v. Steeves-Kiss, No. 3:2017cv06059 - Document 54 (N.D. Cal. 2018)

Court Description: ORDER Granting in Part and Denying in Part 44 Defendant's Request for Attorneys' Fees and Costs. Signed by Judge Edward M. Chen on 5/11/2018. (emcsec, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 5/11/2018)
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1 2 3 4 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 5 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 6 7 8 SUPERIOR CONSULTING SERVICES, INC., Plaintiff, 9 v. 10 11 JENNIFER L STEEVES-KISS, United States District Court Northern District of California Defendant. Case No. 17-cv-06059-EMC ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANT’S REQUEST FOR ATTORNEYS’ FEES AND COSTS Docket No. 44 12 13 Plaintiff Superior Consulting Services filed this action against Jennifer L. Steeves-Kiss 14 asserting claims for violations of common law unfair competition and common law civil theft. 15 Docket No. 16 ( Amended Compl. ) ¶¶ 48-64. This Court granted Ms. Steeves-Kiss‘ motion to 16 dismiss and motion for sanctions against Superior Consulting on March 8, 2017. See Docket No. 17 43. In granting Ms. Steeves-Kiss‘ motion for sanctions, the Court ordered that attorney‘s fees 18 shall be paid to Ms. Steeves-Kiss. See id. Pending before the Court is Ms. Steeves-Kiss‘ request 19 for said attorney‘s fees. See Docket No. 44 ( Def. Supp. Br. ). For the reasons set forth below, 20 the Court AWARDS Ms. Steeves-Kiss $110,799.50 in attorney‘s fees. 21 22 I. FACTUAL & PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND This case was initiated by Superior Consulting on October 23, 2017, against Ms. Steeves- 23 Kiss for violations of the Defense of Trade Secrets Act 18 U.S.C. § 1836 et seq., California 24 Business and Professions Code § 17200 et seq., and California Penal Code § 496(c). See Docket 25 No. 1 ( Compl. ). On November 29, 2017, Superior Consulting amended its complaint and 26 changed its causes of action against Ms. Steeves-Kiss. See Amended Compl. ¶¶ 48-64. Superior 27 Consulting‘s amended complaint brought claims only for violations of common law unfair 28 competition and common law civil theft against Ms. Steeves-Kiss. Id. 1 In December 2017, Ms. Steeves-Kiss filed a motion to dismiss and a motion for sanctions. 2 See Docket Nos. 18, 24. The Court granted both of these motions on March 8, 2017. See Docket 3 No. 43. In granting Ms. Steeves-Kiss‘ motion for sanctions, the Court ordered that attorney‘s fees 4 shall be paid to Ms. Steeves-Kiss. Id. Ms. Steeves-Kiss now requests her attorney‘s fees and 5 expenses in the amount of $149,889.77. Def. Supp. Br. at 5. Ms. Steeves-Kiss argues that this 6 amount is appropriate in light of the amount she incurred, the hourly rates of her attorneys, and the 7 amount of time her attorneys spent on this action. Id. at 2-4. As support, Ms. Steeves-Kiss offers 8 a declaration by her attorney, billing records, and a Laffey Matrix analysis.1 Id. at 2-5; Docket No. 9 44-1 ( Weikert Decl. ); Docket No. 44-5 ( Billing Records ). 10 Superior Consulting opposes Ms. Steeves-Kiss‘ request for attorney‘s fees arguing that (1) United States District Court Northern District of California 11 Ms. Steeves-Kiss is not entitled to recover attorney‘s fees because she was indemnified by her 12 previous employer, Shaklee Corporation, (2) much of the attorney‘s fees requested by Ms. 13 Steeves-Kiss were not directly related to Superior Consulting‘s sanctionable conduct, and (3) the 14 amount of fees requested by Ms. Steeves-Kiss is otherwise unreasonable. See Docket No. 48 15 ( Plf. Supp. Br. ). 16 II. 17 LEGAL STANDARD A Rule 11 sanction may consist of or include an order directing the violator to pay the 18 attorney‘s fees incurred by the other party as a result of the Rule 11 violation. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 19 11(c)(2); Weissman v. Quail Lodge, Inc., 179 F.3d 1194, 1198 (9th Cir. 1999). These awards are 20 subject to two conditions. First, the fee award is limited to fees directly resulting from the 21 violation. Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(c)(2). Second, the fees to be awarded must be reasonable. See Fed. 22 R. Civ. P. 11(c)(2), (4) (Rule 11 permits recovery of all of the reasonable attorney‘s fees and 23 other expenses directly resulting from the violation and for the reasonable expenses, including 24 attorney‘s fees, incurred for the [sanctions] motion. ). Courts typically determine reasonableness 25 by conducting a lodestar analysis of the hours expended and the hourly rate charged. See 26 27 28 1 The Laffey Matrix is a compilation of attorney rates in the Washington, D.C., area based on varying levels of litigation experience. See Laffey v. Nw. Airlines, Inc., 572 F. Supp. 354 (D.D.C. 1983), aff'd in part, rev'd in part on other grounds, 746 F.2d 4 (D.C. Cir. 1984). 2 1 McGrath v. Cty. of Nevada, 67 F.3d 248, 252 (9th Cir. 1995) (citing Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 2 U.S. 424 (1983)). In addition, [a] sanction imposed under this rule must be limited to what suffices to deter 3 4 repetition of the conduct or comparable conduct by others similarly situated. Fed. R. Civ. P. 5 11(c)(4). And sanctions may not be imposed for expenses incurred in proceedings bearing only an 6 attenuated relation to the sanctionable conduct. See Lloyd v. Schlag, 884 F.2d 409, 415 (9th Cir. 7 1989) (finding that a motion to reopen and amend bore only attenuated relation to frivolous 8 complaint previously filed). 9 III. DISCUSSION Rule 11 permits an award of only those expenses directly caused by the [improper] 10 United States District Court Northern District of California 11 filing. Cooter & Gell v. Hartmarx Corp., 496 U.S. 384, 406-07 (1990). The improper filings 12 here for which Superior Consulting was sanctioned are Superior Consulting‘s original Complaint 13 and Amended Complaint, both of which misleadingly pleaded that the disputed information was 14 confidential and which contained no colorable basis for a property right claim. See Docket No. 43 15 ( Order on Motion to Dismiss ). Thus, Ms. Steeves-Kiss is entitled to the attorney‘s fees she 16 incurred that were directly caused by Superior Consulting‘s filing of the original Complaint and 17 the Amended Complaint. 18 A. 19 Indemnification Agreement Superior Consulting opposes Ms. Steeves-Kiss‘ request for attorney‘s fees, arguing that 20 Ms. Steeves-Kiss is not entitled to recover attorney‘s fees because she was indemnified by her 21 previous employer, Shaklee Corporation. Plf. Supp. Br. at 15 (citing Billing Records). In other 22 words, Superior Consulting contends that Ms. Steeves-Kiss is not entitled to recover attorney‘s 23 fees because she did not in fact pay attorney‘s fees. Id. The Court is not persuaded. 24 25 26 27 28 Ms. Steeves-Kiss is seeking attorney‘s fees under Rule 11. See Def. Supp. Br. Rule 11 provides: Nature of a Sanction. A sanction imposed under this rule must be limited to what suffices to deter repetition of the conduct or comparable conduct by others similarly situated. The sanction may include nonmonetary directives; an order to pay a penalty into court; or, if imposed on motion and warranted for effective deterrence, an 3 1 2 order directing payment to the movant of part or all of the reasonable attorney’s fees and other expenses directly resulting from the violation. 3 Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(c)(4) (emphasis added). In setting forth the procedures for bringing a motion 4 for sanctions, Rule 11(c)(2) additionally specifies that [i]f warranted, the court may award to the 5 prevailing party the reasonable expenses, including attorney‘s fees, incurred for the motion. Fed. 6 R. Civ. P. 11(c)(2). 7 Superior Consulting suggests that attorney‘s fees incurred under Rule 11 are limited to attorney‘s fees actually paid by Ms. Steeves-Kiss. Plf. Supp. Br. at 15. Superior Consulting cites 9 cases where pro se litigants could not recover attorney‘s fees because they did not incur any fees. 10 See Massengale v. Ray, 267 F.3d 1298, 1303 (11th Cir. 2001) (finding that because the party did 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 8 not incur legal fees as a cost or expense in representing himself, the district court erred in 12 awarding $25,000 in attorney‘s fees to [the party] as a [Rule 11] sanction ); In re Affiliated Foods 13 Sw., Inc., 472 B.R. 538, 558 (Bankr. E.D. Ark. 2012). In those cases, the litigants incurred no 14 attorney‘s fees because they represented themselves and did not have counsel. In contrast, in the 15 case at bar, fees were incurred as a result of Superior Consulting‘s conduct; the only dispute stems 16 from the fact that fees were ultimately incurred by Ms. Steeves-Kiss‘ employer, not by her. But 17 courts have interpreted the term incurred in the context of Rule 11 attorney‘s fees not to require 18 payment. For example, in Gurary v. Winehouse, 270 F. Supp. 2d 425 (S.D.N.Y. 2003), the 19 sanctioned party argued that the meaning of incurred within Rule 11 means actually sustained. 20 Id. at 430. The Court rejected this argument, finding instead that awarding attorney‘s fees under 21 Rule 11 did not require payment because [t]he notion that incurred‘ requires payment is not 22 supported by the dictionaries. Id. In reaching this result, the Court explained that: 23 24 25 26 27 28 [Dictionaries] do not require evidence of payment (which would extinguish the liability), but rather stress the presence of a liability. Webster‘s Third New International Dictionary (Merriam–Webster 1981) says become liable or subject to: bring down upon oneself (incurred large debts to educate his children) ; Merriam–Webster‘s Tenth Collegiate Dictionary (2000) ( to become liable or subject to ); Black‘s Law Dictionary, Fifth ed. (West 1979)( To become liable or subject to. ). Id. It is notable that Rule 11 specifies that attorney‘s fees may be awarded for those fees that were 4 1 incurred ; it does not require that they be paid. 2 Moreover, Superior Consulting would be afforded an undue windfall if it caused fees to be 3 wrongly incurred but escaped responsibility therefor because the party ultimately bearing the cost 4 of the fees is not the party directly wronged. Whether Ms. Steeves-Kiss‘ employer might have 5 some kind of right to subrogate or obtain indemnification from Ms. Steeves-Kiss‘ recovery should 6 not be a concern to Superior Consulting. See Honua Techs., Inc. v. Krungthep Thanakom, Co., 7 Ltd., No. 05–00523 BMK, 2007 WL 3022613, at *4 (D. Haw. Oct. 15, 2007) (finding that plaintiff 8 retained the right to recover fees and costs, regardless of those fees and costs being covered by an 9 insurer); cf. Green v. Denver & Rio Grande W. R.R. Co., 59 F.3d 1029 (10th Cir. 1995) (discussing collateral source rule). Such a result would undermine the deterrence purpose of Rule 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 11. 12 Superior Consulting requests an evidentiary hearing and seeks to obtain the 13 indemnification agreement from Ms. Steeves-Kiss. Plf. Supp. Br. at 17. For the reasons stated 14 above, the indemnification agreement is irrelevant, and Superior Consulting‘s request for an 15 evidentiary hearing is denied. 16 B. 17 Scope of Attorney‘s Fees Superior Consulting also opposes Ms. Steeves-Kiss‘ request for attorney‘s fees on the 18 ground that it includes fees and expenses not directly related to the Rule 11 violation. Plf. Supp. 19 Br. at 18-20. Some of the billing entries provided by Ms. Steeves-Kiss were for work completed 20 by her attorneys with respect to a Florida action brought by Superior Consulting against her 21 former employer, Shaklee Corporation, and for work on an indemnification and joint defense 22 agreement between Ms. Steeves-Kiss and Shaklee Corporation.2 Superior Consulting argues that 23 fees should be excluded for both categories of work. As for fees generated by the Florida action, Rule 11 permits recovery of all of the 24 25 reasonable attorney‘s fees and other expenses directly resulting from the violation and for the 26 27 28 2 Ms. Steeves Kiss was deposed in a Florida action brought by Superior Consulting against her former employer, Shaklee Corporation. See Superior Consulting Services, Inc. v. Shaklee Corp., No. 6:16-02001-GAP-GJK (M.D. Fla.). 5 1 reasonable expenses, including attorney‘s fees, incurred for the [sanctions] motion. Fed. R. Civ. 2 P. 11(c)(2), (4). Rule 11 permits an award of only those expenses directly caused by the filing. 3 Cooter & Gell v. Hartmarx Corp., 496 U.S. 384, 406-07 (1990). Here, there is no evidence that 4 Ms. Steeves-Kiss was involved in the Florida action as a result of the present action. In other 5 words, Ms. Steeves-Kiss would have still incurred attorney‘s fees for her involvement in the 6 Florida action even if Superior Consulting did not file the original Complaint or the Amended 7 Complaint. Thus, Ms. Steeves-Kiss may not recover fees incurred in the Florida action. 8 9 In response, Ms. Steeves-Kiss cites Gaskell v. Weir, 10 F.3d 626 (9th Cir. 1993). Gaskell provides that [i]n a case like this, where the original complaint is the improper pleading, all attorney fees reasonably incurred in defending against the claims asserted in the complaint form 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 the proper basis for sanctions. Id. at 628. But Gaskell does not help Ms. Steeves-Kiss because 12 her representation in the Florida action was not for defending against claims asserted in the 13 present action. 14 Similarly, Superior Consulting argues that the fees Ms. Steeves-Kiss incurred with respect 15 to her indemnification and joint defense agreement with Shaklee Corporation are not recoverable. 16 Plf. Supp. Br. at 19. An instructive case is Lloyd v. Schlag, 884 F.2d 409 (9th Cir. 1989). In 17 Lloyd, the Ninth Circuit reviewed the district court‘s decision to impose sanctions on the plaintiff 18 for filing a frivolous complaint. Id. at 410. The sanction included attorney‘s fees incurred by the 19 defendant in opposing the plaintiff‘s motion to reopen and amend. Id. at 414-15. The Ninth 20 Circuit vacated this award because the motion only bore attenuated relation to the frivolous 21 complaint, even though the complaint was the but-for cause of that motion. Id. 22 Like in Lloyd, the connection between the sanctionable conduct and the work completed by 23 Ms. Steeves-Kiss‘ attorneys with respect to the indemnification and joint defense agreement is 24 attenuated. Gaskell does not help Ms. Steeves-Kiss here either; despite Superior Consulting‘s 25 objection to such fees, Ms. Steeves-Kiss does not explain how fees incurred for the 26 indemnification and joint defense agreement may be deemed incurred in defending against claims 27 asserted in the present action. Thus, Ms. Steeves-Kiss may not recover fees incurred with respect 28 to her indemnification and joint defense agreement with Shaklee Corporation. This exclusion, 6 1 along with the exclusion of fees from the Florida litigation, results in the exclusion of 29.9 hours 2 for Robert A. Weikert and 0.8 hours for Brianna Howard. 3 Last, Superior Consulting suggests that fees should not be awarded for Ms. Steeves-Kiss‘ 4 efforts in bringing the motion for sanctions. Plf. Supp. Br. at 20. But the December 1, 1993 5 amendment to Rule 11 specifically allows a district court to include the costs associated with 6 sanctions proceedings. Kunimoto v. Fidell, 26 F. App‘x 630, 633-34 (9th Cir. 2001) (citing 7 Margolis v. Ryan, 140 F.3d 850, 854 (9th Cir. 1998)). Thus, Ms. Steeves-Kiss may recover fees 8 incurred in bringing the motion for sanctions. 9 C. 10 Amount of Attorney‘s Fees Ms. Steeves-Kiss requests attorney‘s fees and expenses in the amount of $149,889.77. United States District Court Northern District of California 11 Def. Supp. Br. at 5. For the reasons stated below, the Court finds that an award of $110,799.50 in 12 attorney‘s fees is appropriate here. The Court employs the lodestar method to determine the 13 amount of fees that were reasonably incurred in connection with this case. First, the lodestar 14 figure, or the number of hours reasonably expended on the litigation multiplied by a reasonable 15 hourly rate, is calculated. See McGrath, 67 F.3d at 252 (9th Cir. 1995) (citing Hensley v. 16 Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424 (1983)). Hours found to be not reasonably expended on the litigation 17 should be excluded. Id. (citing Hensley, 461 U.S. at 434). The Court then assesses whether it is 18 necessary to adjust the lodestar figure on the basis of the factors outlined in Kerr v. Screen Actors 19 Guild, Inc., 526 F.2d 67, 69-70 (9th Cir. 1975). There is a strong presumption that the lodestar 20 figure represents a reasonable fee. Only in rare instances should the lodestar figure be adjusted on 21 the basis of other considerations. Morales v. City of San Raphael, 96 F.3d 359, 364 (9th Cir. 22 1996) (internal quotations and citations omitted). 23 Robert A. Weikert, Dawn Valentine, and Brianna Howard billed 119.8 hours, 116.8 hours, 24 and 32.3 hours, respectively. Weikert Decl. ¶¶ 10-12. As noted supra, hours expended on the 25 Florida action and on the indemnification and joint defense agreement are excluded. For this 26 reason, the Court excludes 29.9 hours billed by Mr. Weikert and 0.8 hours billed by Ms. Howard. 27 This leaves 89.9 hours, 116.8 hours, and 31.5 hours billed by Mr. Weikert, Ms. Valentine, and Ms. 28 Howard, respectively. 7 In reviewing billing records, courts exclude hours that are excessive, redundant, or 1 2 otherwise unnecessary. Hensley, 461 U.S. at 434. Defense counsels‘ billing records indicate a 3 fairly significant number of hours dedicated to telephone conferences and emails. Additionally, 4 the number of hours expended by multiple attorneys to draft the same document is excessive. The 5 precise number of hours unnecessarily expended on these activities is not evident due to defense 6 counsels‘ block billing. For these reasons, defense counsels‘ claimed hours are further reduced by 7 10 percent. See Moreno v. City of Sacramento, 534 F.3d 1106, 1112 (9th Cir. 2008) ( [T]he 8 district court can impose a small reduction, no greater than 10 percent—a haircut‘—based on its 9 exercise of discretion and without a more specific explanation. ). Thus, Mr. Weikert, Ms. 10 Valentine, and Ms. Howard reasonably billed 80.9, 105.1, 28.4 hours, respectively. United States District Court Northern District of California 11 As for the reasonable hourly rate, district courts in Northern California have found that 12 rates of $475-$975 per hour for partners and $300-$490 per hour for associates are reasonable. 13 See Gutierrez v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., No. C 07–05923 WHA, 2015 WL 2438274, at *5 (N.D. 14 Cal. May 21, 2015) (finding hourly rates between $475-$975 for partners and $300-$490 for 15 associates in the Bay Area to be reasonable); Brighton Prison Legal News v. Schwarzenegger, 608 16 F.3d 446, 455 (9th Cir. 2010) (finding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in 17 awarding attorney‘s fees based on 2008 hourly rates for Bay Area attorneys of up to $740 for a 18 partner and $370 for an associate). Here, Ms. Steeves-Kiss requests an hourly rate of $785 for Mr. 19 Weikert, $350 for Ms. Valentine, and $370 for Ms. Howard. Based on the experience and 20 qualifications of Ms. Steeves-Kiss‘ counsel and the tasks they performed on these matters, the 21 requested hourly rates are appropriate.3 22 3 23 24 25 26 27 28 Ms. Steeves-Kiss argues that the Laffey Matrix supports her requested attorney‘s fees. See Def. Supp. Br.at 3. Superior Consulting suggests that the Laffey Matrix is inapplicable in California. See Plf. Supp. Br. at 20 ( [J]ust because the Laffey Matrix has been accepted in the District of Columbia does not mean that it is a sound basis for determining rates elsewhere, let alone in a legal market 3,000 miles away. ) (citing Prison Legal News v. Schwarzenegger, 608 F.3d 446, 454 (9th Cir.2010)). However, courts in this circuit are divided over the relevance of the Laffey Matrix in determining market rates. Compare, e.g., Cruz ex rel. Cruz v. Alhambra School Dist., 601 F. Supp. 2d 1183, 1200 n.15 (C.D. Cal. 2009) (finding the Laffey Matrix inconsistent with the standards for calculating a reasonable fee); with Young v. Polo Retail, LLC, No. C–02–4546 VRW, 2007 WL 951821, at *7 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 28, 2007) (applying the Laffey Matrix). In fact, this Court refused to apply the Laffey Matrix in several cases. See, e.g., Dropbox, Inc. v. Thru Inc., No. 15-cv-01741-EMC, 2017 WL 914273, at *4 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 8, 2017). Id. (declining 8 1 Mr. Weikert is a senior partner at Nixon Peabody. Weikert Decl. ¶ 10. His hourly rate in this case was $785 per hour. Id. He holds a bachelor‘s degree from University of California, 3 Berkeley, and a J.D. from Santa Clara University School of Law. Id. With more than 32 years of 4 legal experience, he is co-Chair of Nixon Peabody‘s Commercial Litigation practice group, and 5 the leader of the Trade Secrets team at the firm. Id. Therefore, in light of his experience and the 6 average rates of law firm partners in the Bay Area, see e.g., In re High-Tech Emp. Antitrust Litig., 7 No. 11–CV–02509–LHK, 2015 WL 5158730, at *9 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 2, 2015) (approving rates of 8 about $490 to $975 for partners); Gutierrez, 2015 WL 2438274, at *5 (finding hourly rates 9 between $475-$975 for partners to be reasonable), his rate of $785 per hour is reasonable. As 10 noted supra, Mr. Weikert reasonably billed 80.9 hours. Multiplied by the $785 hourly rate, the 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 2 lodestar figure for Mr. Weikert is $63,506.50. 12 Ms. Valentine is Of Counsel at Nixon Peabody. Weikert Decl. ¶ 11. Her hourly rate in 13 this case was $350 per hour. Id. She holds a bachelor‘s degree from Boston University and a J.D. 14 from the University of California, Berkeley. Id. She has 19 years of experience as a litigator. 15 Therefore, her rate of $350 per hour is reasonable. As noted supra, Ms. Valentine reasonably 16 billed 116.8 hours. Multiplied by the $350 hourly rate, the lodestar figure for Ms. Valentine is 17 $36,785. 18 Ms. Howard is an Associate at Nixon Peabody. Weikert Decl. ¶ 12. Her hourly rate in this 19 case was $370 per hour. Id. She holds a bachelor‘s degree from the University of California, Los 20 Angeles, and a J.D. from University of California, Hastings College of the Law. Id. The record is 21 unclear about Ms. Howard‘s years of experience. Nevertheless, her hourly rate is reasonable in 22 light of associate rates found by courts in the Bay Area. See Gutierrez, 2015 WL 2438274, at *5 23 (rates of $300-$490 per hour for associates are reasonable in the Bay Area). As noted supra, Ms. 24 Howard reasonably billed 31.5 hours. Multiplied by the $370 hourly rate, the lodestar figure for 25 Ms. Howard is $10,508. 26 27 28 defendant‘s request to use the Laffey Matrix because the party requesting fees, the plaintiff, had submitted competent evidence showing market rates in that area). The Court does not consider the Laffey Matrix here because Ms. Steeves-Kiss has presented other evidence that is sufficient to show market rates in the Bay Area. 9 1 Adding the three adjusted lodestar figures for Ms. Steeves-Kiss‘ attorneys, she is entitled 2 to an award of $110,799.50 in attorney‘s fees. 3 D. 4 Allocation of Liability Rule 11 sanctions may be imposed on any attorney, law firm, or party that violated Rule 11 or who is responsible for the violation. Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(c)(1). Sanctions may be imposed 6 against the client alone, the attorney alone, or both the client and the attorney based on their 7 relative responsibility. See, e.g., Pan-Pac. & Low Ball Cable Television Co. v. Pac. Union Co., 8 987 F.2d 594 (9th Cir. 1993) (imposing sanctions on client because client was catalyst, was well- 9 positioned to investigate the facts, and failed to make appropriate inquiry); Oganyan v. Square 10 Two Fin., No. CV 11–10226 RGK (VBKx), 2012 WL 4466607, at *3 (C.D. Cal. Sept. 26, 2012) 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 5 (imposing sanctions on plaintiff‘s counsel because he failed to make even a cursory investigation 12 into underlying facts or law). 13 Ms. Steeves-Kiss seeks to impose sanctions on Superior Consulting and its counsel. See 14 Docket No. 24. But there is no evidence that Superior Consulting was responsible for the 15 sanctionable conduct. Superior Consulting did not sign the original Complaint or the Amended 16 Complaint and there is no factual basis for concluding that it did anything that would warrant any 17 Rule 11 sanction. Superior Consulting‘s counsel, and not Superior Consulting, is the one that 18 served Ms. Steeves-Kiss, advanced the legally baseless argument, and signed the original 19 Complaint and the Amended Complaint. Thus, the Court finds that sanctions are properly 20 imposed against Superior Consulting‘s counsel only. 21 22 23 IV. CONCLUSION For the foregoing reasons, the Court orders Superior Consulting‘s counsel to pay Ms. Steeves-Kiss $110,799.50 in attorney‘s fees. 24 This order disposes of Docket No. 44. 25 IT IS SO ORDERED. 26 27 28 Dated: May 11, 2018 ______________________________________ EDWARD M. CHEN United States District Judge 10