Pending - Other Pending
Labor - Other Labor
SIDROW CHRISTINA L.
FRIEDMAN LOUIS M.
DOES 1 TO 99
LOS ANGELES COUNTY OF
ROES 1 TO 99
ROTHE FRANK SGT.
COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES
TORRES-SIEGRIST DAVID G.
SCHIMMEL ALAN IRWIN ESQ.
CHOI JIN SUK
9/6/2018: Minute Order
2/28/2019: Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings
3/1/2019: Notice of Lodging
3/27/2019: Minute Order
4/2/2019: Minute Order
4/16/2019: Request for Dismissal
5/3/2019: Motion in Limine
5/3/2019: Motion in Limine
5/3/2019: Motion in Limine
5/3/2019: Motion in Limine
5/3/2019: Motion in Limine
5/3/2019: Motion in Limine
5/3/2019: Motion in Limine
5/6/2019: Motion in Limine
Docketat 09:00 AM in Department 71, Monica Bachner, Presiding; Final Status Conference - Held - Continued[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketOrder Appointing Court Approved Reporter as Official Reporter Pro Tempore; Filed by County of Los Angeles (Defendant); Frank Sgt. Rothe (Defendant)[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketMinute Order ( (FINAL STATUS CONFERENCE)); Filed by Clerk[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketReply (in Support of MIL No. 2 to Preclude Evidence of Other Bad Acts); Filed by County of Los Angeles (Defendant)[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketReply (in Support of MIL No. 3 to Preclude Evidence and/or Arguments that LASD Negligently Lost and/or Intentionally Destroyed Training Records); Filed by County of Los Angeles (Defendant)[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketReply (in Support of MIL No. 6 Precluding Hearsay Statements by Walt Allen); Filed by County of Los Angeles (Defendant)[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketReply (in Support of MIL No. 8 Precluding Testimony from High-Ranking Officials); Filed by County of Los Angeles (Defendant)[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketReply (in Support of MIL No. 4 to Preclude Evidence of Statements from Christina Sidrow to Gary Manini); Filed by County of Los Angeles (Defendant)[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketReply (Reply in Support of MIL No. 5 to Preclude Evidence of Compensation Paid to other Reserve Deputies); Filed by County of Los Angeles (Defendant)[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketOpposition (Supplemental Opposition to Plaintiff's MIL No. 1); Filed by County of Los Angeles (Defendant)[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketPROOF OF SERVICE OF SUMMONS[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketNOTICE OF CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketORDER TO SHOW CAUSE HEARING[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketOSC-Failure to File Proof of Serv; Filed by Clerk[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketNotice of Case Management Conference; Filed by Clerk[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketPLAINTIFFS' COMPLAINT FOR DAMAGES 1) RETALIATORY FIRST AMENDMENT VIOLATION/ WHISTLEBLOWLNG- 42 U.S.C. SECTION 1983 ;ETC[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketSUMMONS[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketSummons; Filed by Christina L. Sidrow (Plaintiff); Louis M. Friedman (Plaintiff)[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketComplaint; Filed by Christina L. Sidrow (Plaintiff); Louis M. Friedman (Plaintiff)[+] Read More [-] Read Less
DocketStipulation and Order; Filed by County of Los Angeles (Defendant)[+] Read More [-] Read Less
Case Number: ****7075 Hearing Date: August 05, 2020 Dept: 71
Superior Court of California
County of Los Angeles
CHRISTINA L. SIDROW, et al.,
COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES, et al.
Case No.: ****7075
Hearing Date: August 5, 2020
Plaintiff Louis Friedman’s motion for attorneys’ fees and costs is granted in the amount of $400,000
Plaintiff Louis Friedman (“Plaintiff”) moves for an award of attorneys’ fees and costs in the amount of $400,000 against Defendant County of Los Angeles (“Defendant”) pursuant to the January 16, 2020 Settlement Agreement between Plaintiff and Defendant. (Notice of Motion, pgs. 1-2; C.C.P. ;664.6)
Background of Action
On January 18, 2017, Plaintiff and his wife Christina L. Sidrow (“Sidrow”) (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) filed their complaint against Defendant and Defendant Sergeant Frank Rothe (“Rothe”) (collectively, “Defendants”) asserting causes of action for: (1) First Amendment Violation Under ;1983 as to Plaintiff; (2) Employment Discrimination – Sexual Harassment as to Sidrow; (3) Employment Discrimination – Gender as to Sidrow; (3) Age Discrimination/Harassment as to Sidrow; (4) Retaliation as to Sidrow; (5) Failure To Take All Reasonable Steps Necessary To Prevent Discrimination and Harassment as to Sidrow; (7) Wrongful Demotion as to Sidrow; and (8) POBRA violation as to Plaintiffs.
On April 20, 2017, the Court sustained Defendant’s demurrer to Sidrow’s 3rd, 4th, and 6th causes of action and to Plaintiffs’ 8th cause of action. The Court overruled the demurrer as to the 2nd and 4th causes of action. (See Court’s 4/20/17 Minute Order & Ruling.) Plaintiffs were originally represented by David G. Torres-Siegrist (“Torres-Siegrist”) who substituted out to be replaced by Plaintiff’s current counsel, Schimmel & Parks, APLC (“S&P”), on August 8, 2017. On December 1, 2017, the Court entered an order on the stipulated dismissal of Sidrow’s 7th cause of action. On March 27, 2018, the Court denied Defendants’ motion for summary judgment, denied Defendants’ motion for summary adjudication as to the 1st cause of action, and granted Defendants’ motion for summary adjudication as to the 2nd and 4th causes of action. On April 16, 2019, after Rothe’s motion for judgment on the pleadings was granted with leave to amend, he was dismissed with prejudice. As such, only the 1st cause of action asserted by Plaintiff against Defendant remained. In support of the motion, Plaintiff’s counsel declares Plaintiff brought this action under 42 U.S.C. ;1983 against Defendant alleging he was retaliated against and eventually terminated in violation of his First Amendment rights for having brought forth complaints and matters of public concern to former POST Commissioner Walt Allen and others regarding LASD mishandling of reserve academy training records and POST-certification records for those who had completed training. (Decl. of Park ¶8.)
On March 7, 2019, Plaintiffs filed a Notice of Settlement of Entire Case with the Court and on October 3, 2019, Plaintiffs filed the instant motion. During the August 20, 2020 Mandatory Settlement Conference (“MSC”), the parties indicated they had reached a stipulated settlement, and the Court scheduled an OSC Re: Dismissal After Settlement. (8/20/19 Minute Order.) At the January 24, 2020 OSC, counsel advised the Court that the Settlement Agreement had been signed by both Plaintiffs and would be signed by Defendant shortly, at which time it would be submitted for approval by the Claims Board. (1/24/20 Minute Order.) Plaintiff submitted evidence the Los Angeles County Claims Board approved the Settlement Agreement with notice on March 6, 2020. (Decl. of Parks, Exh. C.)
Attorneys’ Fees and Costs
The Settlement Agreement provides as follows: “Plaintiff’s attorneys shall be entitled to bring a motion for an award for Plaintiff’s statutory attorneys’ fees and costs, which are to be determined by the Court on a noticed motion. Recovery of any award on such motion shall be capped at $400,000 and payable to [S&P]…” (Decl. of Parks, Exh. B, pg. 2.)
42 U.S.C. ;1988 provides: “In any action or proceeding to enforce a provision of [42 U.S.C. ;1983], the court, in its discretion, may allow the prevailing party… a reasonable attorney’s fee as part of the costs…”
Plaintiff is entitled to an award of reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs in this action. In support of his requested fees, Plaintiff submitted the declarations of Torres-Siegrist, and his counsel at S&P including Michael W. Parks (“Parks”), Alan I. Schimmel (“Schimmel”), and Arya Rhodes (“Rhodes”). In their declarations, Torres-Siegrist, Parks, Schimmel, and Rhodes set forth their standard hourly rates and descriptions of their education and experience in support of those rates. (Decl. of Torres-Siegrist ¶¶2-8, 10 [$650 per hour]; Decl. of Parks ¶¶21-23 [$750 per hour]; Decl. of Schimmel ¶¶3-4 [$800 per hour]; Decl. of Rhodes ¶¶3-5, 8 [$450 per hour].) Plaintiff’s counsel also submitted billing records to support hours they assert they billed. (Decl. of Torres-Siegrist Exh. A; Decl. of Parks, Exh. D [includes records for Schimmel and Rhodes].) Plaintiff also submitted an invoice for costs incurred in the action in the total amount of $19,668.11. (Decl. of Parks, Exh. C.)
Plaintiff asserts his request for $400,000 in attorneys’ fees is reasonable considering the lodestar calculation of fees incurred in this matter is equal to $707,990 based on 973.1 total hours of work by four attorneys. (Motion, pgs. 10-13.) The following chart is a summary of the lodestar amount of fees incurred:
David G. Torres-Siegrist
Michael W. Parks
Alan I. Schimmel
As a preliminary matter, given Plaintiff requests $19,668.11 in costs out of the $400,000 cap on attorneys’ fees and costs, his request for attorneys’ fees, after subtracting the requested costs, is $380,331.89. Plaintiff’s request for costs is reasonable and supported. In opposition, Defendant argues costs should be reduced in a percentage manner based on Defendant’s assertion that Plaintiff is not entitled to costs for dismissed claims and against dismissed parties. (Opposition, pg. 10.) However, Defendant does not address which costs were not reasonably incurred in connection with pursuing Plaintiff’s claims. Given that Plaintiff is entitled to costs incurred in connection with pursuing his claims, an overall percentage reduction due to the dismissal of Rothe and Sidrow’s claims without addressing whether the struck costs were incurred only in connection with the dismissed claims would be improper. Defendant also asserts specific costs should be reduced or eliminated for “lack of specification” including various shipping charges, filing fees, a transcript fee, and unspecified copy charges. (Opposition, pg. 10.) However, these costs appear to be proper on their face and a lack of specification of the basis for the fees is not demonstrative that the costs were unnecessary or unreasonably incurred, especially given that Defendant does not otherwise object to shipping charges, filing fees, transcript fees, and copy charges as improperly requested. (Nelson v. Anderson (1999) 72 Cal.App.4th 111, 131 [“‘If the items appearing in a cost bill appear to be proper charges, the burden is on the party seeking to tax costs to show that they were not reasonable or necessary. On the other hand, if the items are properly objected to, they are put in issue and the burden of proof is on the party claiming them as costs.’”].) As such, the Court finds that the requested costs are sufficiently supported.
The Court finds Plaintiff’s request for attorneys’ fees in the amount of $380,331.89 to be sufficiently supported considering the evidence submitted suggesting that, based on a lodestar calculation, Plaintiff’s counsel incurred $707,990 in attorneys’ fees.
In opposition, Defendant does not dispute Plaintiff’s entitlement to attorneys’ fees, but argues the requested fees should be reduced for the following reasons and/or in the following manner: (1) Plaintiff’s failure to support counsel’s hourly rates; (2) Plaintiff’s limited success on his single remaining claim; (3) exclusion and/or reduction of Torres-Siegrist’s time; (4) exclusion of time spent on unrelated and unsuccessful claims; (5) exclusion of in-house conferences. (Opposition, pgs. 4-10.) In the alternative, Defendant argues Plaintiff’s requested attorneys’ fees should be reduced by a negative multiplier to at least $212,397. (Opposition, pgs. 1, 10, 11.) Defendant’s arguments lack merit.
First, the Court finds the hourly rates of Plaintiff’s counsel are reasonable and sufficiently supported. Based on the declarations of counsel, and the Court’s own experience, the Court finds that the hourly rates for Plaintiff’s attorneys are supported. Moreover, as pointed out in reply, the cap builds in a reduction of the hourly rate. Also even if the Court reduced the hours worked by 25%, a fee award of $380,331.89 would average an hourly rate of just under $550 per hour. (Reply, pgs. 4-6.) In addition, Defendant’s reference to its lead trial attorneys’ hourly rate of $165 is irrelevant to determining the reasonableness of the hourly rates of Plaintiff’s counsel considering the contingent nature of the representation and the higher risk of not being paid. (Opposition, pg. 5; Reply, pg. 3.)
Defendant’s assertion that the attorneys’ fees award should be reduced because Plaintiff achieved “relatively limited success” is unpersuasive. (Opposition, pgs. 6-9.) Defendant’s assertion of Plaintiff’s limited success is based on the dismissal of Sidrow’s harassment and discrimination claims, the dismissal of Rothe as a defendant, and a failure by Plaintiff to demonstrate that he attained an admission of a constitutional violation or resulted in a policy change conferring a public benefit. (Opposition, pgs. 6, 8-9.) However, the Settlement Agreement provided Plaintiff both with $99,999 in compensation as well as the non-monetary relief of a clear record that the fault over the recordkeeping errors about which Plaintiff exercised his First Amendment rights lay with the LASD, rather than with Plaintiff. (Decl. of Parks, Exhs. A, B; Reply, pg. 5.) For Plaintiff, the non-monetary consideration in this case were priceless and more important than the money towards Plaintiff’s successful recovery outcome. (Reply, pg. 6.)
Defendant’s argument that Plaintiff is not entitled to fees incurred by Torres-Siegrist since his withdrawal was necessitated by a conflict of interest regarding prior representation of Defendant is not sufficiently supported. (Opposition, pgs. 7-8.) Defendant has submitted no evidence suggesting an actual conflict. In addition, in reply, Plaintiff submitted a supplemental declaration of Torres-Siegrist in which he declares there was no actual conflict of interest between his former representation of Defendant and his brief representation of Plaintiff, that the instant matter did not involve any subject matter, litigants, or witnesses implicated by his former representation, and that he was never privy to any confidential material of Defendant or LASD in his previous representation that would be implicated in any way by the instant case. (Reply-Decl. of Torres-Siegrist ¶¶3-6.) As such, Defendant’s objection to all of Torres-Siegrist’s fees for the potential of the existence of a conflict of interest is without merit. Defendant argues that, alternatively, most of Torres-Siegrist’s billing should be stricken since work related to exhausting administrative remedies is not allowed [4.4 hours], time related to dismissed claims should not be recoverable [21.7 hours], and duplicative billing for a CMC Parks also attended [3.9 hours], leaving Torres-Siegrist entitled to only 11.3 hours. (Opposition, pg. 8.) In reply, Plaintiff does not address this alternative request for reduction of Torres-Siegrist’s fees, and instead only argue as to the conflict of interest. (Reply, pgs. 8-10.) The Court agrees Torres-Siegrist’s fees should be reduced for these amounts given that the demurrer did not involve Plaintiff’s 1st cause of action and the fees appear duplicative; however, a reduction of his fees in the amount of $19,500 (from $26,845 for 41.3 hours to $7,345 for 11.3 hours) would not significantly change the overall lodestar amount and would certainly not cause the lodestar amount to fall below $380,331.89.
Defendant’s assertion that billings prior to the MSJ should be reduced by 7/8 (at least 87%), based on Sidrow’s dismissed claims and due to vague billing descriptions, that fail to provide sufficient information as to what time was spent on what claims, is without merit. (Opposition, pgs. 8-9.) Similarly, Defendant’s assertions that there should be a 50% reduction in time up to Rothe’s dismissal, leaving only one Defendant is without merit. (Opposition, pg. 9.) Plaintiff argues that Sidrow’s dismissed claims concerned a familial relation that were related to Plaintiff’s ;1983 retaliation claim. (Reply, pg. 2.) Plaintiff’s ;1983 retaliation claim included allegations that Plaintiff’s wife Sidrow was targeted with hostile and demeaning treatment to send Plaintiff a retaliatory message of intimidation for exercising his protected activities. (Reply, pg. 2.) As such, while Sidrow’s claims were not successful, it was reasonable that Plaintiff’s counsel spent time developing evidence of familial relation surrounding the targeting of Plaintiff’s wife. Defendant’s assertion that fees should be reduced on a percentage basis by 7/8 fraction as indicative of the number of causes of action dismissed versus the number that survived to trial fails to take into account the interrelatedness of the claims, to the extent Defendant’s treatment of Sidrow could be evidence of its retaliation against Plaintiff for the purposes of his first cause of action. Similarly, Defendant’s assertion that fees be reduced by 50% prior to Rothe’s dismissal on the grounds that he was one of the two defendants, does not properly object to the actual hours claimed to have been incurred in pursuing claims against Rothe, and improperly equated Rothe and Defendant as equal defendants. As such, Defendant’s objection to the fees on the basis that they warrant a percentage reduction is not supported.
Defendant asserts that Plaintiff’s billing for 75.8 hours was improperly billed to include in-house conferences amongst Plaintiffs’ attorneys and asserts that the lack of description and block nature of the billing makes it impossible to discern the purposes of the conferences and should be reduced; however, it is not clear by what amount Defendant contents this 75.8 hours should be reduced. (Opposition, pgs. 9-10 [Approximately 75.8 hours (Exh. “H”, highlighted; 30%: -23 hrs) was billed related to or including in-house conferences amongst Plaintiffs’ attorneys.”].) Plaintiff does not address this objection in reply. Assuming Defendant seeks a 23-hour reduction, such a reduction in hours would not significantly change the overall lodestar amount and would not cause the lodestar amount to fall below $380,331.89. As such, the requested fees are sufficiently supported, even if the Court were to strike all fees for in-house conferences among Plaintiffs’ attorneys.
Based on the foregoing, Plaintiff’s motion for statutory attorneys’ fees and costs is granted in the amount of $400,000.