This case was last updated from Los Angeles County Superior Courts on 04/06/2019 at 03:34:57 (UTC).

KAREEMAH MATEEN-BRADFORD VS. CITY OF COMPTON, ET. AL

Case Summary

On 08/06/2012 KAREEMAH MATEEN-BRADFORD filed a Labor - Wrongful Termination lawsuit against CITY OF COMPTON. This case was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Courts, Compton Courthouse located in Los Angeles, California. The Judges overseeing this case are BRIAN S. CURREY, WILLIAM BARRY, KELVIN D. FILER and MAURICE A. LEITER. The case status is Disposed - Judgment Entered.

Case Details Parties Documents Dockets

 

Case Details

  • Case Number:

    ****6769

  • Filing Date:

    08/06/2012

  • Case Status:

    Disposed - Judgment Entered

  • Case Type:

    Labor - Wrongful Termination

  • Court:

    Los Angeles County Superior Courts

  • Courthouse:

    Compton Courthouse

  • County, State:

    Los Angeles, California

Judge Details

Presiding Judges

BRIAN S. CURREY

WILLIAM BARRY

KELVIN D. FILER

MAURICE A. LEITER

 

Party Details

Plaintiffs

MATEEN

MATEEN-BRADFORD KAREEMAH

Defendants

CALHOUN BARBARA

CITY OF COMPTON

NORFLEET WILLIE

PERRODIN ERIC

COMPTON CITY OF

DOES 1 THROUGH 100

Others

COMPTON SUPERIOR COURT

RICHARDS WATSON & GERSHON

RING BENDER LLP

Attorney/Law Firm Details

Plaintiff Attorneys

WESIERSKI & ZUREK LAW OFFICES OF

LAW OFFICES OF MARCIA L. KRAFT

KRAFT MILES & MILLER LLP

SCHABLOSKI ALYSSA

Defendant Attorneys

ANITA O. AVILES DEPUTY CITY ATTORNEY

COMPTON CITY ATTORNEY'S OFFICE .

RICHARDS WATSON & GERSHON

DUPONT NORMAN ARTHUR

 

Court Documents

Minute Order

12/13/2018: Minute Order

Exhibit List

1/18/2019: Exhibit List

Declaration

2/11/2019: Declaration

Notice of Ruling

2/26/2019: Notice of Ruling

Request for Judicial Notice

3/21/2019: Request for Judicial Notice

Request for Judicial Notice

3/21/2019: Request for Judicial Notice

Request for Judicial Notice

4/3/2019: Request for Judicial Notice

Declaration

4/3/2019: Declaration

Proof of Service (not Summons and Complaint)

4/3/2019: Proof of Service (not Summons and Complaint)

Proof of Service (not Summons and Complaint)

4/3/2019: Proof of Service (not Summons and Complaint)

Motion in Limine

4/3/2019: Motion in Limine

Motion in Limine

4/3/2019: Motion in Limine

Declaration

4/3/2019: Declaration

Minute Order

4/4/2019: Minute Order

Notice

7/12/2018: Notice

Proof of Service (not Summons and Complaint)

7/23/2018: Proof of Service (not Summons and Complaint)

Memorandum of Points & Authorities

11/6/2018: Memorandum of Points & Authorities

Unknown

12/13/2018: Unknown

110 More Documents Available

 

Docket Entries

  • 04/05/2019
  • Ex Parte Application (for a Protective Order, or, in the Alternative, to Specially Set a Hearing Date on a Motion for a Protective Order); Filed by KAREEMAH MATEEN-BRADFORD (Plaintiff)

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  • 04/04/2019
  • at 09:09 AM in Department A, Maurice A. Leiter, Presiding; Hearing on Motion for Reconsideration - Held - Continued

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  • 04/04/2019
  • at 09:00 AM in Department A, Maurice A. Leiter, Presiding; Hearing on Motion for Summary Judgment - Held - Continued

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  • 04/04/2019
  • Minute Order ( (Hearing on Motion for Summary Judgment; Hearing on Motion for...)); Filed by Clerk

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  • 04/04/2019
  • Order Appointing Court Approved Reporter as Official Reporter Pro Tempore ((Lori Lillienfeld)); Filed by COMPTON, CITY OF (Defendant)

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  • 04/03/2019
  • Request for Judicial Notice; Filed by COMPTON, CITY OF (Defendant)

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  • 04/03/2019
  • Declaration (of Jay A. Tufano ISO MIL No. 3); Filed by COMPTON, CITY OF (Defendant)

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  • 04/03/2019
  • Proof of Service (not Summons and Complaint); Filed by COMPTON, CITY OF (Defendant)

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  • 04/03/2019
  • Motion in Limine (No. 4 - Exclude Evidece re Harrassing Comments); Filed by COMPTON, CITY OF (Defendant)

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  • 04/03/2019
  • Declaration (of Jay A. Tufano ISO MIL No. 4); Filed by COMPTON, CITY OF (Defendant)

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1,213 More Docket Entries
  • 11/14/2012
  • Request for Dismissal-Partial; Filed by KAREEMAH MATEEN-BRADFORD (Plaintiff)

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  • 11/14/2012
  • First Amended Complaint; Filed by KAREEMAH MATEEN-BRADFORD (Plaintiff)

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  • 11/14/2012
  • Request for Dismissal-Partial (with prejudice as to Willie Norfleet & Eric Perrodin, only ); Filed by Attorney for Plaintiff

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  • 11/14/2012
  • First Amended Complaint; Filed by Attorney for Plaintiff

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  • 08/31/2012
  • Proof-Service/Summons; Filed by Attorney for Plaintiff

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  • 08/31/2012
  • Proof-Service/Summons; Filed by KAREEMAH MATEEN-BRADFORD (Plaintiff)

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  • 08/06/2012
  • Summons Filed

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  • 08/06/2012
  • Complaint Filed

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  • 08/06/2012
  • Complaint; Filed by KAREEMAH MATEEN-BRADFORD (Plaintiff)

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  • 08/06/2012
  • Summons; Filed by null

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Tentative Rulings

Case Number: TC026769    Hearing Date: July 13, 2020    Dept: A

#5. Kareemah Mateen-Ms. Bradford v. City of Compton et al.

Case No.: TC026769

Matter on calendar for: Motion to Tax Costs; Motion for Attorneys’ Fees (x3)

Tentative ruling:

  1. Background

Plaintiff Kareemah Mateen-Bradford was terminated from her position as Human Resources Director for defendant City of Compton. She brought this case, asserting claims under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”), Government Code § 12900 et seq., in August 2012. [1]

The case originally went to trial in 2016, resulting in a jury verdict for the City. The Court of Appeal reversed, citing an error in the special verdict form, and remanded. The Court of Appeal awarded Ms. Bradford her costs on appeal.

The case was re-tried in May 2019; this time a jury found for Ms. Bradford on her retaliation claim and awarded her $655,000.

Ms. Bradford filed memoranda of costs; currently before the Court is the City’s motion to tax those costs.

Three motions for awards of attorneys’ fees also are before the Court. Those motions were brought by attorneys who represented Ms. Bradford at various times. Specifically, Ms. Bradford has been represented by these attorneys for the time periods indicated:

Law Firm

Date

Wesierski & Zurek, LLP

August 2012 — January 2015 (initial filing through near-settlement)

Kraft, Miles & Miller, LLP

November 2015 — July 2016 (motion to enforce settlement through post-trial motions of 2016 trial)

Ehrlich Law Firm

July 2016 — 2018 (appeal in the Second District Court of Appeal)

Gladius Law, APC

July 2018 — Present (after remand and through the 2019 trial)

The Simon Law Group

May 28, 2019 —June 11, 2019 (2019 trial)

(Fees Mtn, Decl. Schabloski, ¶ 3.)

Wesierski & Zurek LLP and Kraft, Miles and Miller LLP each moved for attorneys’ fees; Ehrlich Law Firm, Gladius Law, APC and Simon Law Group filed a joint motion for attorneys’ fees.

  1. Motion to Tax Costs

    1. Standard

Government Code § 12965(b) governs the award of costs and attorneys’ fees in FEHA cases. (Williams v. Chino Valley Independent Fire Dist. (2015) 61 Cal.4th 97, 115.) “In civil actions brought under this section, the court, in its discretion, may award to the prevailing party . . . reasonable attorney’s fees and costs, including expert witness fees . . . .” (Gov. Code, § 12965(b).) Courts analyze FEHA fee requests under the standard set forth in Christiansburg Garment Co. v. EEOC (1978) 434 U.S. 412, 416–417, 98 S.Ct. 694, 54 L.Ed.2d 648.) “[U]nder that standard a prevailing plaintiff should ordinarily receive his or her costs and attorney fees unless special circumstances would render such an award unjust. [Citation.]” (Williams, 61 Cal.4th at 115 [emphasis omitted].)

The memorandum of cost is a verified statement by the party, attorney, or agent that the costs are correct and were necessarily incurred in the case. (Cal. Rules of Court, Rule 3.1700(a)(1).) “If the items appear to be proper charges, the verified memorandum is prima facie evidence that the costs, expenses and services therein listed were necessarily incurred by the defendant, and the burden of showing that an item is not properly chargeable or is unreasonable is upon the [objecting party].” (Oak Grove School Dist. v. City Title Ins. Co. (1963) 217 Cal.App.2d 678, 698.) “[I]f the correctness of the memorandum is challenged either in whole or in part by the affidavit or other evidence of the contesting party, the burden is then on the party claiming the costs and disbursements to show that the items charged were for matters necessarily relevant and material to the issues involved in the action.” (Id. at 699.)

    1. Analysis

Ms. Bradford’s memoranda of costs report $264,164.31 in costs, which includes claimed expert witness fees of $132,535.[2]

The City moves to strike various filing and motion fees, deposition costs, service of process costs, and expert fees from Ms. Bradford’s memoranda of costs. The City’s principal contention is that Ms. Bradford should not recover costs for failed arguments, such as those dismissed on summary adjudication, or for the depositions of individuals whose testimony was not used during, or necessary to, the successful second trial. The Court will address whether the challenged costs are related to Ms. Bradford’s prevailing claims: she is entitled only to compensation for costs associated with her fee-related issue. (Ketchum v. Moses (2001) 24 Cal.4th 1122, 1137.)

      1. Filing and Motion Fees

The City’s motion targets six motion and filing fees, totaling $320, arguing they must be stricken as unnecessary to the issues tried. These motions relate to Ms. Bradford’s attempt to enforce an alleged settlement agreement. (Tax, Mtn. at 2–4; Decl. Dupont, ¶¶ 4–6.) Ms. Bradford’s attempt to enforce the settlement agreement was an attempt to bring resolution to this case before trial. Although ultimately unsuccessful, the alleged settlement concerned her prevailing claims and it was necessary for the litigation for the issue to be fully addressed. These costs are compensable.

      1. Deposition Costs

Recovery of costs for depositions “does not depend on whether the deponent ultimately testifies at trial. [Citation.]” (Chaaban v. Wet Seal, Inc. (2012) 203 Cal.App.4th 49, 57; C.C.P., § 1033.5(c)(4).)

Deposition of Barbara Banks: According to the City, Ms. Banks served on Compton’s Personnel Board from 2006 to 2013 and testified generally about the workings of the Board. (Tax, Mtn., p. 5.) The City argues her testimony was unnecessary, while Ms. Bradford points to her use of Ms. Banks’ testimony in opposition to the first summary judgment motion, the identification of Ms. Banks on Ms. Bradford’s witness list, and to an issued trial subpoena. (Tax, Opp., Decl. Schabloski, ¶¶ 26, 31, 32.) Ms. Bradford has sufficiently shown that Ms. Banks’ deposition was related to her successful claim.

Depositions of John Hoffman: Mr. Hoffman represented the City of Inglewood when it was considering hiring Ms. Bradford, and his testimony was not used in either trial. (Tax, Mtn. at 5–6.) The City’s objection fails to address why the deposition occurred or on what the inquiry focused during the deposition. Further, the City of Inglewood did not hire Ms. Bradford, so it was reasonable for Ms. Bradford to ensure, via discovery, that Inglewood’s decision was not influenced by employees of the City of Compton.

On reply, the City argues that because Wesierski & Zurek, Ms. Bradford’s prior counsel, seeks this cost, it is not compensable. However, the City fails to cite authority for its argument that Ms. Bradford cannot recover a cost because, at the time, she was represented by a different lawyer. The City has not shown that the possibility Ms. Bradford will remit recovery for this cost to prior counsel affects whether she may recover the cost.

Vernell McDaniel: Ms. McDaniel was the Deputy City Clerk; her testimony was not used at either trial. The City argues Ms. Bradford used the testimony of Anita Godwin, the City Clerk, so deposing McDaniel was redundant. A review of excepts from her deposition show she testified to the City’s various procedures at council meetings. (Decl. Schabloski, Exh. 5.) McDaniel’s deposition is compensable.

Donald Ylvisakr, Marianne Inouye, and Michael Jenkins: Mr. Ylvisakr was designated by the City as an expert witness but was not used at either trial. Deposing him was reasonable and necessary to rebut the City’s defenses. Ms. Inouye was utilized by Ms. Bradford to attest to her economic damages; her testimony became moot after Ms. Bradford’s job and CALPERS benefits were reinstated. At the time, however, her deposition was reasonably necessary as to damages in Ms. Bradford’s retaliation claim. Mr. Jenkins was another expert designated by the City, though Ms. Bradford’s motions in limine prevented his use at trial in both the 2016 and 2019 trial. This deposition was reasonably necessary and is recoverable.

Texas Deposition Travel Expenses: The memorandum of costs includes expenses incurred in taking the deposition of Willie Norfleet, which took place in Texas. Code of Civil Procedure § 1033.5(a)(3)(C) includes deposition travel expenses as recoverable. “Travel expenses” includes lodging (Thon v. Thompson (1994) 29 Cal.App.4th 1546, 1548–1549), and Ms. Bradford’s claimed $621.58 charge for two nights is not unreasonable.

      1. Service of Process

Ms. Bradford requests $2,808 for service of process on Eric Perrodin, a former mayor of Compton and Los Angeles District Attorney. The City contends the cost is facially unreasonable and that the costs involved in serving Mr. Perrodin were “the subject of a separate appeal and settlement resolving that appeal.” (Mtn., Memo, at p. 9.) The high price tag is unreasonable, absent context. The burden therefore shifts to Ms. Bradford to substantiate the cost. (Oak Grove School Dist., supra, 217 Cal.App.2d at 698–6993) Ms. Bradford has not provided a breakdown showing why service cost $2,808, so this request remains unsubstantiated and will be taxed.

Gonzalez, Saggio & Harlan, Rufio Espinoza III, and Cynthia Sands: These service costs were related to the City’s internal investigation into Ms. Bradford’s claims. The City did not assert the adequacy of its investigation as a defense, so these items were not necessary to the successful claim. The $454.15 claimed for service on these parties is not compensable.

Barbara Banks, Christine Ferrel, and Homer Post: The City fails to object to service on these individuals properly; it merely states, in conclusory fashion, that they were not involved in either trial. (Tax, Mtn. at 10.) As discussed above with Ms. Banks, this does not make out a case that the costs were unreasonable.

The Court taxes $3,262.15 related to service of process costs.

      1. Expert Fees

Ms. Bradford is entitled to expert witness fees. (Gov. Code, § 12965(b); Arave v. Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, Inc. (2018) 19 Cal.App.5th 525, 549.) In determining whether to award costs under FEHA, a trial court is guided by the purposes of FEHA, which is to “safeguard the right of Californians to seek, obtain, and hold employment without experiencing discrimination . . . .’ [Citation.]” (Horsford v. Board of Trustees of Cal. State Univ. (2005) 132 Cal.App.4th 359, 394.) Generally, awarding expert witness fees and costs in this suit is reasonable and necessary. It ensures plaintiffs will be able to find representation and afford to litigate their meritorious claims.

Anthony Reading: The City moves to tax the fees of Anthony Reading, Ms. Bradford’s expert who opined on Ms. Bradford’s mental health. The City specifically targets the $18,900 billed to review the record, $1,060 for a legal consulting fee, and $9,000 for deposition preparation. The City’s argument centers on an application of People v. Sanchez (2016) 63 Cal.4th 665, which applies the hearsay rule to expert witness testimony. Sanchez is inapposite on the issue before the Court; it does not limit what materials the expert properly may review when preparing for trial. (Id. at 685.)

Michael Robbins: The City argues Robbins’ fees were unrelated to the issues tried but fails to provide supporting evidence. (Tax, Mtn. at 11–12.) It is the City’s burden to specifically state its grounds of objections and “adduce rebuttal evidence as needed. [Citation.]” (Litt v. Eisenhower Medical Center (2015) 237 Cal.App.4th 1217, at 1224.)

Jené Verchick: Ms. Verchick testified as a treating psychologist (Decl. Schabloski, ¶ 113); the 22 hours of therapy she provided are not compensable as necessary to the litigation. Her trial prep and trial times are billed separately and not contested. The Court taxes $5,500.00 for this item.

The motion to tax is granted, in part. The Court taxes a total of $8,762.15 from Ms. Bradford’s claimed costs.

  1. Motions for Attorneys’ Fees as Costs

    1. Standard

As noted, Government Code § 12965(b) governs the award of attorneys’ fees in FEHA cases. (Williams v. Chino Valley Independent Fire Dist. (2015) 61 Cal.4th 97, 115. In assessing attorneys’ fees, “[t]rial courts first determine a lodestar amount: the hours spent times a reasonable hourly rate. Courts may then increase the amount, usually by applying a multiplier to the lodestar. The multiplier is to compensate for extrinsic factors such as the risk of nonpayment (the contingency factor), the public interest advanced by the case, the difficulty of the issues involved, and the skill of the attorneys. [Ketchum v. Moses (2001) 24 Cal.4th 1122, 1135.]” (Caldera v. Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (2020) 48 Cal.App.5th 601, 604.) An additional factor is the degree to which the nature of the litigation precluded other employment. (Ketchum, supra 24 Cal.4th at 1132.)

An adjustment may also account for the “ ‘lack of overall success.’ ” (Harman v. City and County of San Francisco (2007) 158 Cal.App.4th 407, 425.) “The ‘ “experienced trial judge is the best judge of the value of professional services rendered in [their] court, and while [their] judgment is of course subject to review, it will not be disturbed unless the appellate court is convinced that it is clearly wrong.” ’ [Citation.]” (Ketchum, supra, 24 Cal.4th at 1132.)

“Through an attorney fee award, the FEHA encourages private counsel to vindicate the right of an employee to work in an environment free from unlawful discrimination. [Citation.]” (Caldera, supra, 48 Cal.App.5th at 606–607.) Rewarding Ms. Bradford’s counsel for successfully litigating her claim will incentivize others to similar action.

    1. Analysis

Including the requested multipliers, plaintiff's current and former counsel seek a total of $5,446,903.26 in attorneys’ fees. The Court addresses each motion separately.

      1. Request for Judicial Notice

The City requests judicial notice of 19 documents, 18 of which are documents filed in this case. The remaining exhibit is the United States Attorney’s Office Laffey Matrix, as of Sept. 12, 2019. These requests are granted under Evidence Code § 452 subsections (d) and (c).

      1. Gladius Law, Simon Law Group, and Ehrlich Law Firm

Alyssa K. Schabloski of Gladius requests $477,230.00 in pre-judgment fees based on 734.2 hours at the rate of $650 per hour. She asks for a multiplier of 2.0, resulting in a fee request of $954.460.00. Siannah Collado Boutté of Simon seeks $81,445.00 in pre-judgment fees based on 125.3 hours at the rate of $650 per hour. She also asks for a 2.0 multiplier, bringing her request to $162,890.00. Jeffrey I. Ehrlich claims $111,150.00 in fees based on 171 hours at the rate of $650 per hour. He seeks a 2.25 multiplier, for a total fee request of $250,087.50. In total, this motion requests $669,825.00 in base pre-judgment fees, and $1,367,437.50 after the multipliers.

Ms. Schabloski also seeks an additional 186.4 hours in post-judgment legal work, adding an additional $121,160. Ms. Boutté spent an addition 7.2 hours working on this matter post-judgment, adding $4,680.

        1. Rates

Ms. Bradford’s lead trial counsel, Ms. Schabloski, seeks a rate of $650 per hour, as do her trial co-counsel Ms. Boutté and Ms. Bradford’s appellate attorney Mr. Ehrlich. The City argues Ms. Schabloski’s and Ms. Boutté’s rates are unreasonable when comparing defense counsel’s hourly rates of $295 and $350 as charged to the City. The City also refers to the USAO Lafferty Matrix for support.

The parties rely on a different fee matrices. The City’s USAO Lafferty Matrix places attorneys with 11 years of experience at $510 per hour. (Decl. Dupont, Exh. 15.) Ms. Bradford’s counsel refer to the Lafferty Matrix, which sets the rate for comparable experience at $742 for 2018 and $747 for 2019. (Decl. Schabloski, Reply, Exh. 8.) Neither matrix is adjusted for the Los Angeles region.

Ms. Bradford’s counsel also provided four declarations from attorneys unrelated to this case, supporting the argument that $650 per hour is reasonable for attorneys of Ms. Schabloski’s, Ms. Boutté’s, and Mr. Ehrlich’s respective experience and skills.

Considering Ms. Schabloski’s, Ms. Boutté’s, and Mr. Ehrlich’s qualifications, experience and skills, and the supporting evidence and declarations, the Court finds their respective $650 hourly rates to be reasonable.

        1. Hours Billed

          1. Gladius Law and Simon Law Group

“[W]hen determining a prevailing plaintiff’s attorney fee in an action for violation of civil rights . . . the extent of a plaintiff’s success is a crucial factor. [Citation.]” (Chavez v. City of Los Angeles (2010) 47 Cal.4th 970, 989.) If a plaintiff has prevailed on some claims but not others, fees are not awarded for time spent litigating claims unrelated to the successful claims, and the trial court ‘should award only that amount of fees that is reasonable in relation to the results obtained.’ [Citation.]” (Ibid.; Guillory v. Hill (2019) 36 Cal.App.5th 802, 811 [citing Chavez].)

The City argues that Ms. Schabloski’s hours should be reduced for time spent on the petition to confirm an alleged arbitration agreement, attending Ms. Bradford’s workers’ compensation depositions, and time related to Ms. Bradford’s gender discrimination claim.

Ms. Bradford’s FEHA gender discrimination claim was closely intertwined with her FEHA retaliation claim: they were based on the same underlying events, meeting the Chavez standard. The Court likewise finds the workers’ compensation depositions compensable as the depositions were relevant to this action. The Court notes that Ms. Bradford’s August 20, 2018 workers’ compensation case was included in the Joint Exhibit List.

As to the petition to confirm the arbitration award, Ms. Schabloski argues it was in support of Ms. Bradford’s position against one of the City’s affirmative defenses. (Fees, Schabloski Mtn., Reply, at 13.) “ ‘Litigants in good faith may raise alternative legal grounds for a desired outcome, and the court’s rejection of or failure to reach certain grounds is not a sufficient reason for reducing a fee. [Citation.]” (City of Sacramento v. Drew (1989) 207 Cal.App.3d 1287, 1303.) Although unsuccessful, Ms. Bradford’s arbitration judgment litigation strategy was directly related to Ms. Bradford’s claims and is compensable.

Based on the billing records and declarations submitted, the Court finds Ms. Schabloski’s 734.2 and Ms. Boutté’s 125.3 reported hours to be reasonable.

Ms. Schabloski reports an additional 186.4 hours in post-judgment legal work. Ms. Boutté spent an additional 7.2 hours working on this matter post-judgment. Given the volume and complexity of work submitted post-judgment, the Court finds these amounts reasonable.

          1. Ehrlich Law Firm

Contrary to the City’s argument, the Court declines to reduce the fee award because the appeal raised more arguments than those on which the Court of Appeal based its decision. Ms. Bradford was not required to put all her eggs in one basket on appeal, nor is there persuasive support for the proposition that costs on appeal are limited to those portions of the brief addressing the issues on which the Court of Appeal ultimately based its decision.

The City also argues for a reduction because a server malfunction resulted in the loss of Ehrlich Law Firm’s timekeeping records. (Decl. Ehrlich, ¶ 20.) A court may “ ‘reduce compensation on account of any failure to maintain appropriate time records. [Citation.]’ [Citation.]” (Christian Research Institute v. Alnor (2008) 165 Cal.App.4th 1315, 1320.) However, “[r]econstruction of time records may be permissible for a fee motion if there is adequate information to reach reasonable estimates of the work described. [Citations.]” (Cates v. Chiang (2013) 213 Cal.App.4th 791, 822.) Mr. Ehrlich’s declaration provides a table of his estimated time and descriptions of the actions he took in preparing the case for appeal. The estimated time, supported by the declaration, is reasonable.

Based on Mr. Ehrlich’s declaration and a review of his submitted work, the Court finds his 171 hours to be reasonable.

        1. Lodestar Modification: Multiplier

As discussed above, after determining the lodestar amount “[c]ourts may then increase the amount, usually by applying a multiplier to the lodestar. The multiplier is to compensate for extrinsic factors such as the risk of nonpayment (the contingency factor), the public interest advanced by the case, the difficulty of the issues involved, and the skill of the attorneys. [Ketchum v. Moses (2001) 24 Cal.4th 1122, 1135.]” (Caldera v. Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (2020) 48 Cal.App.5th 601, 604.) An additional factor courts may consider is the degree to which the nature of the litigation precluded other employment. (Ketchum, supra 24 Cal.4th at 1132.)

The Court agrees that Ms. Schabloski took a great risk in taking this case. (Decl. Schabloski, ¶¶ 129–130.) Her declaration recounts circumstances that might have discouraged her from taking up the matter, including: her colleagues advised her not to take it (Id. at ¶ 129), Ms. Bradford lost at the first trial (Id. at ¶ 130), and the Court awarded costs and fees to the City after the first trial, finding Ms. Bradford’s remaining claims to be unmeritorious (Ibid). She nonetheless took the case on a contingent basis and advanced costs of around $100,000, taking on a loan and risking her solo practice. (Id. at ¶ 142.) In addition to the opportunity loss from the time spent litigating this matter, Ms. Schabloski was precluded from other work when the trial prevented her from attending a mediation in another matter. (Id. at ¶ 139.) Evaluating these circumstances, the Court awards Ms. Schabloski a multiplier of 1.5 to her fees.

The Court has analyzed the relevant factors in connection with the requests for multipliers by Ms. Boutté and Mr. Ehrlich. The Court concludes that a multiplier is not appropriate in either counsel’s circumstances.

      1. Kraft Miles and Wesierski & Zurek

Kraft Miles represented Ms. Bradford at her initial trial. It claims fees totaling $252,820.80. Wesierski & Zurek was Ms. Bradford’s original counsel and represented her for approximately two and a half years. Wesierski & Zurek claims fees totaling $2,291,793.00. It requests an additional 1.5 multiplier, bringing the requested sum to $3,437,689.00.

As noted above, Government Code § 12965(b) allows for the award of reasonable attorneys’ fees at the Court’s discretion. “[W]hen determining a prevailing plaintiff’s attorney fee in an action for violation of civil rights . . . the extent of a plaintiff’s success is a crucial factor. [Citation.]” (Chavez v. City of Los Angeles (2010) 47 Cal.4th 970, 989.) The Court has considered this, as well as the factors discussed above, in evaluating the claims made by these firms.

Wesierski & Zurek and Kraft Miles achieved, at best, modest success in this case. Only two of the six causes of action in the complaint survived summary adjudication. Wesierski & Zurek eventually parted ways with Ms. Bradford after a fee dispute concerning its representation at her administrative hearing. Kraft Miles represented Ms. Bradford in the 2016 trial. It did not prevail, and as noted the Court found after trial that Ms. Bradford was liable for the City’s costs. The evidence before the Court does not show that these firms played a significant role in the successful result obtained years later, by subsequent counsel, that would justify an award under Government Code § 12965(b).

Additionally, Wesierski & Zurek’s $3,437,689.00 request is excessive. In its reply, the firm concedes that prior to the 2019 jury verdict in favor of Ms. Bradford, the most in fees for which she would be liable to Wesierski & Miles was approximately $900,000. (Reply at 8.) The firm argues that subsequent counsel’s success now entitles it to more than three times that amount. “ ‘Prevailing parties are compensated for hours reasonably spent on fee-related issues. A fee request that appears unreasonably inflated is a special circumstance permitting the trial court to reduce the award or deny one altogether.’ [Citation.]” (Ketchum, supra, 24 Cal.4th at 1137 [emphasis omitted].) (See also Chavez v. City of Los Angeles, 47 Cal. 4th at 989-91.)

Under these circumstances, and considering the factors discussed in Ketchum and its progeny, the Court exercises it discretion to not award fees to Wesierski & Zurek or Kraft Miles.

Both Kraft Miles and Wesierski & Zurek argue that Mardirossian & Associates, Inc. v. Ersoff (2007) 153 Cal.App.4th 257, 272, Chodos v. Borman (2014) 227 Cal.App.4th 76, 96, and Huskinson & Brown v. Wolf (2004) 32 Cal.4th 453 support their motions for fees, but these cases do not compel a different result.

Mardirossian involved a law firm whose client terminated their representation and then settled days later with different counsel. (Mardirossian, supra, 153 Cal.App.4th at 263.) The firm sued its former client under a quantum meruit theory. The jury rendered a verdict for the law firm. The Court of Appeal affirmed, finding that prior counsel may recover fees in quantum meruit from their former clients. (Id. at 272.) Chodos concerned an attorney who represented a client in three separate actions without a fee agreement. (Chodos, supra, 227 Cal.App.4th at 82.) In Chodos, like Mardirossian, the attorney sued the prior client on a quantum meruit theory. (Id. at 96.) Neither Mardirossian nor Chodos supports the request made here – that the Court should order the opposing party to pay former counsel’s fees. Finally, Huskinson was another quantum meruit action involving two law firms and an illegal fee splitting agreement; it is inapposite. (Huckinson, supra, 32 Cal.4th at 456–457.)

Wesierski & Zurek argues that Ruiz v. California State Automobile Association Inter-Insurance Bureau (2013) 222 Cal.App.4th 596 stands for the proposition the attorney may recover directly from the defendant. However, Ruiz involved the current counsel in a public interest class action suit, not prior counsel that had parted ways with its client years earlier. (Id. at 606–607.)

The Kraft Miles and Wesierski & Zurek motions for attorneys’ fees are denied.

  1. Ruling

    The motion to tax costs is granted in part. The Court taxes $8,762.15 from Ms. Bradford’s requested costs.

The Gladius Law, Simon Law Group, and Ehrlich Law Firm motion for attorneys’ fees is granted in part. Gladius is awarded $897,585; Simon is awarded $86,125; Erhlich is awarded $111,150.

The Kraft Miles and Wesierski & Zurek motions for attorneys’ fees are denied.


[1] Separately, Ms. Bradford’s union filed a petition with the Superior Court (Case No. BS147640) for an order directing the City to proceed with a hearing on Ms. Bradford’s administrative appeal of her termination. The parties reached a settlement, under which a neutral would conduct an evidentiary hearing and issue a determination as to several issues. The neutral’s decision was in favor of Ms. Bradford; she was reinstated to her position with back pay. Motion practice ensued in this Court concerning the potential impact of the neutral’s decision on this case.

[2] Current counsel and prior counsel Wesierski & Zurek filed separate memoranda of costs. The City objected to prior counsel’s standing to bring a separate memorandum of costs, but the City did not do so until reply. That objection is untimely. (Campos v. Anderson (1997) 57 Cal.App.4th 784, 794, fn. 3 [“Points raised in the reply brief for the first time will not be considered, unless good reason is shown for failure to present them before.”].) The Court has considered each item raised in the City’s motion to tax, regardless of in which memorandum of cost it appears.

Case Number: TC026769    Hearing Date: February 18, 2020    Dept: A

# 8. Kareemah Mateen-Bradford v. City of Compton et al.

Case No.: TC026769

Matter on calendar for: Motion to Tax Costs; Motion for Attorneys’ Fees (x3)

Tentative ruling:

I. Background

This case went to trial on May 22, 2019. On June 11, 2019, the jury found for Bradford on her retaliation claim and awarded $655,000 for mental and emotional injuries through April 24, 2016.

Bradford has filed a memorandum of costs and the City has moved to tax those costs. Bradford has been represented by multiple firms since 2012, resulting in three motions for attorneys’ fees. The motions are opposed.

Current Motions:

· Defendant’s Motion to Tax Costs

· Motion for Attorneys’ Fees

o Gladius Law, APC

o The Simon Law Group, LLP

· Motion for Attorneys’ Fees

o Kraft Miles, A Law Corporation (formerly Kraft, Miles & Miller, LLP)

· Motion for Attorneys’ Fees

o Wesierski & Zurek, LLP

The court needs additional time to further review the voluminous documents that have been submitted in this matter before issuing a tentative ruling. The motions are to be continued to a date in March agreeable to the parties and the court.

Next dates:

Notice:

Case Number: TC026769    Hearing Date: December 13, 2019    Dept: A

# Kareemah Mateen-Bradford v. City of Compton et al.

Case No.: TC026769

Matter on calendar for: Motion to Tax Costs; Motion for Attorneys’ Fees (x3)

Tentative ruling:

  1. Background

This is a wrongful termination action. Plaintiff Kareemah Mateen-Bradford was terminated from her position as Human Resources Director for Defendant City of Compton. Bradford filed suit alleging wrongful termination, harassment, and FEHA claims. Bradford’s union filed a separate petition with the Superior Court (Case No. BS147640) for an order directing the City to proceed with a hearing on Bradford’s administrative appeal of her termination. The parties in that matter agreed to a settlement under which a neutral would conduct an evidentiary hearing and issue a determination as to several issues. The neutral’s decision was in favor of Bradford; she was reinstated to her position with three years’ back pay. 

The case most recently before the Court involved Bradford’s California Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) claims.  The case went to trial on July 11, 2016; on appeal, the Court of Appeal remanded. The error was in a special verdict form that did not allow the jury to determine if discrimination or retaliation was a “substantial motivating reason” behind Bradford’s termination.

Bradford petitioned the Court to enter judgment confirming the decision reached by the neutral (Justice Candace Cooper) hearing on the appeal of her termination. She argued that the proceeding was an arbitration. The petition was denied when the Court found the proceeding to be an administrative hearing. Bradford appealed this order on January 18, 2019. Bradford moved to stay the case pending the appeal. That motion was denied. The City then renewed its motion for summary judgment based on new facts or law. This motion was denied on April 11, 2019. The case went to trial on May 22, 2019. On June 11, 2019, the jury found for Bradford on her retaliation claim and awarded $655,000 for mental and emotional injuries through April 24, 2016.

Bradford has filed a memorandum of costs and the City has moved to tax those costs. Bradford has been represented by multiple firms since 2012, resulting in three motions for attorneys’ fees. The motions are opposed. The motion was continued from their original hearing date at the request of the attorneys.

Current Motions:

  1. Analysis

“ ‘In a contest over what time was reasonably and necessarily spent in preparation of a case, it is obvious that the time that the opposition found necessary to prepare its case would be probative. Each party must prepare to question the same witnesses, must review the same documents and other evidence, and must anticipate a presentation by the opposition of a complexity related to the facts in issue.’ [Citation.]” (In re Tobacco Cases I (2013) 216 Cal.App.4th 570, 584–585.)

The Court requires Defense counsel’s billing records for this action to evaluate the reasonableness of time billed by the various attorneys who represented Plaintiff. Defendant is to file these records by December 31, 2019. The hearing on the motion to tax costs and motions for attorneys’ fees is continued to January 28, 2020.

  1. Ruling

The hearing set for Monday, December 16, 2019, is taken off calendar and reset for January 28, 2020 at 9:00 A.M. The Court requires Defense counsel’s billing records for this action to evaluate the reasonableness of time billed by the various attorneys who represented Plaintiff. Defendant is to file these records with the Court by December 31, 2019.

Accordingly, the hearing on the motion to tax costs and motions for attorneys’ fees is continued to January 28, 2020. If this date is impractical for counsel, they are to meet and confer to set a new date, and thereafter clear the new date with the clerk.

Next dates:

Notice: