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Cinemapub, L.L.C. v. Petilos

United States District Court, D. Utah

September 26, 2018

CINEMAPUB, L.L.C., d/b/a BREWVIES, Plaintiff,
v.
SALVADOR D. PETILOS, et al., Defendants. Position Hours Rate Fees Lodestar

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER AWARDING ATTORNEYS' FEES AND COSTS

          DAVID NUFFER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Cinemapub L.L.C. (“Brewvies”) filed two motions[1] seeking an award of attorneys' fees and costs totaling $596, 906.35 against Defendants Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control and the State of Utah (collectively, the “State”) under 42 U.S.C. § 1988 and rule 54(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.[2]

         Although the State concedes that Brewvies “is entitled to a reasonable award of attorneys' fees” as the prevailing party in this case, the State argues that the fees requested should be “substantially reduced” because they are “excessive and completely unreasonable.”[3] According to the State, Brewvies' attorneys did not exercise “proper billing judgment;” their maximum hourly billing rate should not exceed $385; their fees should be reduced by donations Brewvies received; and some of their time entries are imprecise, incomplete, vague, and duplicative.[4]

         To determine the amount of attorneys' fees that should be awarded to a prevailing party, courts “generally determine what fee is reasonable by first calculating the lodestar-the total number of hours reasonably expended multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate-and then adjust the lodestar upward or downward to account for the particularities of the suit and its outcome.”[5]

         Based on the evidence presented, the arguments and objections of the parties, [6] and for good cause appearing, the loadstar in this case is $496, 949.50, which is calculated as follows:

Position
Hours
Rate
Fees
Amin Alehashem
Attorney
71.20
×
180.00
=
12, 816.00
Ross Anderson
Attorney
870.50
×
385.00
=
335, 142.50
Janet Conway
Attorney
213.60
×
190.00
=
40, 584.00
Marshall Thompson
Attorney
165.00
×
190.00
=
31, 350.00
Vanessa Walsh
Attorney
156.90
×
150.00
=
23, 535.00
Walter Mason
Clerk
412.60
×
120.00
=
49, 512.00
Becky DeLawder
Paralegal
8.20
×
50.00
=
410.00
Angela Larson
Paralegal
4.30
×
50.00
=
215.00
Shawn Parker
Paralegal
67.70
×
50.00
=
3, 385.00
Lodestar
496, 949.50

         Under the circumstances, it is not appropriate to adjust the lodestar upward by 10% of Mr. Anderson's billed time, as Brewvies requests. But it is appropriate to adjust the lodestar downward by $22, 494.28 to account for the total net amount of donations that Brewvies received for legal fees. Accordingly, as the prevailing party in this case, Brewvies should be awarded $474, 455.22 in reasonable attorneys' fees.

         It is undisputed that Brewvies should also be awarded $3, 848.35 for taxable costs.[7]Some of the parties' argument centered on the political nature of this litigation and the very unfortunate effect of a fee award on the public treasury. While the effect of attorneys' fee awards on the public treasury is something that the State may properly consider in enacting, enforcing, and defending legislation, that effect has nothing to do with the reasonableness of Brewvies' attorneys' fees. The political judgment of the State that it will enact a statute contrary to existing law and risk payment of legal fees is a legitimate choice, but it has consequences. As long as the legislature passes laws which the attorney general is obligated to defend, the financial risks to the State and taxpayers will continue. Legislative enactment of constitutional legislation - and abandonment or non-enforcement of unconstitutional legislation - is a better way to avoid this type of fee award.

         ORDER

         THEREFORE, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Brewvies' motions for attorneys fees[8] is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART as follows: Judgment will be entered in favor of Brewvies against the State for reasonable attorneys' fees in the total amount of $474, 455.22 under 42 U.S.C. § 1988 and rule 54(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

         IT IS FURTHER HEREBY ORDERED that judgment will be entered in favor of Brewvies against the State for taxable costs in the amount of $3, 848.35 under 28 U.S.C. § 1920.

---------

Notes:

[1] Plaintiff's Motion for an Award of Attorneys' Fees and Costs and Memorandum in Support (“Motion”), docket no. 86, filed October 16, 2017; Plaintiff's Supplemental Motion Requesting an Award of Additional Attorneys' Fees Incurred from October 1, 2017, Through December 22, 2017 ...


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