Crawford v. City and County of San Francisco, No. 4:2016cv01301 - Document 44 (N.D. Cal. 2016)

Court Description: ORDER GRANTING ATTORNEYS' FEES MOTION by Judge Claudia Wilken granting 34 Motion for Attorney Fees. (napS, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 9/6/2016)
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Crawford v. City and County of San Francisco Doc. 44 1 IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 2 FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 3 4 WILLIE CRAWFORD, 5 6 7 8 9 United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 11 No. C 16-1301 CW Plaintiff, ORDER GRANTING ATTORNEYS' FEES MOTION v. CITY AND COUNTY OF SAN FRANCISCO, et al., (Docket No. 34) Defendants. ________________________________/ The City and County of San Francisco (the City) moves for 12 attorneys' fees and costs against Plaintiff Willie Crawford 13 (Crawford) following partial success on its motion to strike. 14 Court grants the City's motion. 15 The BACKGROUND 16 Crawford's Second Amended Complaint (2AC) contains six causes 17 of action: 1) racial discrimination in violation of the California 18 Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), 2) harassment in violation 19 of FEHA, 3) retaliation in violation of FEHA, 4) violation of the 20 federal Family Medical Leave Act, 5) intentional infliction of 21 emotional distress and 6) wrongful termination in violation of 22 public policy. 23 Docket No. 1-1. The Court granted in part the City's motion to strike 24 Crawford's state law claims under California's anti-SLAPP statute. 25 Docket No. 30, Order. 26 discrimination, harassment and emotional distress claims, with 27 leave to amend. 28 Crawford's wrongful termination claim because "Crawford conceded It granted the motion as to Crawford's The Court also granted the motion as to Dockets.Justia.com 1 at oral argument that this claim is not viable." 2 Court denied the motion as to Crawford's retaliation claim, which 3 remains. 4 12, 2016 deadline. 5 Id. at 17. The Crawford did not file an amended complaint by its July The City filed the instant motion for attorneys' fees on July 6 26, 2016. 7 on the papers. The Court vacated the hearing and considers the motion 8 9 LEGAL STANDARD California law governs attorneys' fees based on California's United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 anti-SLAPP statute. 11 (9th Cir. 2013). 12 federal court. 13 Inc., 190 F.3d 963, 972-73 (9th Cir. 1999). 14 "prevailing defendant on a special motion to strike shall be 15 entitled to recover his or her attorney's fees and costs." 16 Civ. Proc. Code ยง 425.16(c)(1); see also Ketchum v. Moses, 24 Cal. 17 4th 1122, 1131 (2001) (characterizing these fees as "mandatory 18 attorney fees"). 19 so as to effectuate the legislative purpose of reimbursing the 20 prevailing defendant for expenses incurred in extracting herself 21 from a baseless lawsuit." 22 Wanland v. Law Offices of Mastagni, Holstedt & Chiurazzi, 141 Cal. 23 App. 4th 15, 22 (2006)). 24 Graham-Sult v. Clainos, 756 F.3d 724, 751 The anti-SLAPP fee-shifting provision applies in United States v. Lockheed Missiles & Space Co., It states that a Cal. The fee-shifting provision "is broadly construed Graham-Sult, 756 F.3d at 752 (quoting A "party who partially prevails on an anti-SLAPP motion must 25 generally be considered a prevailing party unless the results of 26 the motion were so insignificant that the party did not achieve 27 any practical benefit from bringing the motion." 28 Old Time Serv., Inc., 139 Cal. App. 4th 328, 340 (2006). 2 Mann v. Quality A 1 successful defendant is also entitled to fees incurred in filing 2 the motion for attorneys' fees. 3 Courts use the lodestar method for calculating fees under the 4 anti-SLAPP fee-shifting provision. 5 6 7 Ketchum, 24 Cal. 4th at 1141. See id. at 1136. DISCUSSION I. Timeliness Crawford first argues that the City's motion is untimely. He 8 argues that the partial denial of the City's motion to strike was 9 a judgment because it was appealable. Therefore, he argues, the United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 City's motion was due on July 6, 2016 and was filed untimely under 11 Civil Local Rule 54-5(a), which states that "motions for awards of 12 attorney's fees by the Court must be served and filed within 14 13 days of entry of judgment by the District Court." 14 analysis is incorrect. 15 Crawford's Crawford relies on Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(a), 16 which states that a judgment "includes a decree and any order from 17 which an appeal lies." 18 which explains that, unless a court "expressly determines that 19 there is no just reason for delay" for entering judgment on fewer 20 than all claims, adjudication of "fewer than all the claims . . . 21 does not end the action." 22 before the entry of a judgment adjudicating all the claims." 23 Because the order that granted in part the motion to strike did 24 not adjudicate all claims, it is not a judgment. 25 However, Crawford ignores Rule 54(b), Any order "may be revised at any time Id. Further, case law regarding a California anti-SLAPP motion's 26 appealability in federal court does not mandate imposing the fee 27 motion deadline under Civil Local Rule 54-5(a). 28 has held that denial of a California anti-SLAPP motion to strike 3 The Ninth Circuit 1 "remains among the class of orders for which an immediate appeal 2 is available." 3 1015 (9th Cir. 2013). 4 orders granting a motion to strike. 5 distinguished DC Comics, holding that an order granting a motion 6 to strike is not subject to the collateral order doctrine. 7 v. Hummer, 825 F.3d 1043, 1047 (9th Cir. 2016) (per curiam). 8 Further, an order that grants a motion to strike but does not 9 dispose of the whole litigation is not appealable as a final United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 11 decision. DC Comics v. Pac. Pictures Corp., 706 F.3d 1009, However, the analysis is different for The Ninth Circuit Hyan See id. at 1046-47. Here, the City seeks fees for prevailing on the motion to 12 strike. 13 irrelevant. 14 a final decision because claims remained following the order. 15 Because the order's collateral appealability is irrelevant and its 16 final appealability is nonexistent, the fourteen-day deadline in 17 Civil Local Rule 54-5(a) does not apply. 18 19 II. Therefore, the collateral appealability of a denial is Additionally, the Court's order is not appealable as Meet and Confer Crawford argues that the City did not properly meet and 20 confer before filing this motion. 21 its motion once it became apparent that Crawford was planning on 22 opposing the motion based on timeliness. 23 The City argues that it filed On July 25, 2016, Kevin McLaughlin, counsel for the City, 24 sent to Brian Soriano, Crawford's counsel, an email regarding the 25 instant motion. 26 and confer. 27 If you seek more time to confer, please let us know." 28 Dec. Ex. A. The email's stated purpose was to request a meet It stated: "We intend to file the motion tomorrow. Soriano Mr. Soriano requested more time and asked Mr. 4 1 McLaughlin to permit him to respond on July 27. 2 McLaughlin responded by requesting that Mr. Soriano agree to file 3 a stipulation that would extend time to file the fee motion. 4 Mr. Soriano responded that the stipulation arguably waived any 5 timeliness argument and suggested that there had been sufficient 6 time to meet and confer. 7 26. 8 letter outlining several arguments against the instant motion, 9 encouraging its withdrawal. Id. Id. Ex. B. Mr. The City filed its motion on July The following day, Mr. Soriano sent to Mr. McLaughlin a Id. Ex. C. The City's counsel 10 United States District Court For the Northern District of California Id. offered to hold the fee motion in abeyance pending mediation, 11 which Crawford's counsel refused. 12 Supp. Hartinger Dec. Ex. A. "Counsel for the respective parties must meet and confer for 13 the purpose of resolving all disputed issues relating to 14 attorney's fees before making a motion for award of attorney's 15 fees." 16 must be supported by declarations or affidavits stating "that 17 counsel have met and conferred for the purpose of attempting to 18 resolve any disputes with respect to the motion or a statement 19 that no conference was held, with a certification that the 20 applying attorney made a good faith effort to arrange such a 21 conference, setting forth the reason the conference was not held." 22 Id. 54-5(b)(1). 23 opposition to the motion, which the City did not withdraw. 24 sequence of events indicates that any further conferral would not 25 have resolved the parties' disputes. 26 27 28 Civ. L.R. 54-5(a). Unless otherwise ordered, a fee motion Here, Mr. Soriano outlined his arguments in This III. Reasonableness The Court finds, and Crawford does not dispute, that the hourly rates attributed to each attorney are reasonable. 5 Crawford 1 argues that the fees are not reasonable because the scope of the 2 work exceeds the motion to strike and because the fee motion 3 overstates what the City's counsel accomplished. 4 A. Scope of Work 5 Crawford argues that the submitted time descriptions exceed 6 that spent preparing the anti-SLAPP motion. 7 Crawford states that the City's timesheets include "time for 8 reviewing the case file and getting up to speed," as well as 9 "multiple defense attorneys meeting with witnesses." In particular, Response Br. United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 at 5. 11 time entries submitted relate to the motion to strike. The Court has reviewed the time entries and finds that all 12 13 B. Success for non-SLAPP reasons Crawford argues that the City did not actually prevail under 14 anti-SLAPP on two of the claims for which the City's motion to 15 strike was granted. 16 as not properly before the Court on the anti-SLAPP motion and the 17 intentional infliction of emotional distress claim as dismissed 18 for insufficient offensiveness. 19 He characterizes the wrongful discharge claim As the Court explained, the second step of an anti-SLAPP 20 motion to strike requires the Court to determine whether the 21 plaintiff demonstrates a probability of prevailing on the merits. 22 Order at 6. 23 Crawford did not meet that standard. 24 25 26 27 28 The Court struck both claims because, at step two, Id. at 16-17. The Court concludes that the number of hours requested is reasonable. IV. Fee Calculation The City is entitled to fees for prevailing on its motion to strike with a reduction to eighty percent to reflect partial 6 1 success, that is, $34,128. 2 also entitled to the amount for fees submitted with its fee motion 3 reply brief: $3,535.00. 4 costs: $2,861.55. 7 8 The City is Finally, the City is entitled to its Id. Ex. G. 5 6 See Hartinger Dec. Ex. H. CONCLUSION In sum, the City is entitled to $37,663 in fees and $2,861.55 in costs. IT IS SO ORDERED. 9 United States District Court For the Northern District of California 10 11 Dated: September 6, 2016 CLAUDIA WILKEN United States District Judge 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 7