This case was last updated from Los Angeles County Superior Courts on 05/11/2021 at 04:03:27 (UTC).

LONG Z. LIU VS TOMMY SONGFONG WANG, ET AL.

Case Summary

On 09/25/2019 LONG Z LIU filed a Contract - Business lawsuit against TOMMY SONGFONG WANG. This case was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Courts, Pomona Courthouse South located in Los Angeles, California. The Judge overseeing this case is GLORIA WHITE-BROWN. The case status is Disposed - Dismissed.
Case Details Parties Documents Dockets

 

Case Details

  • Case Number:

    *******0860

  • Filing Date:

    09/25/2019

  • Case Status:

    Disposed - Dismissed

  • Case Type:

    Contract - Business

  • County, State:

    Los Angeles, California

Judge Details

Presiding Judge

GLORIA WHITE-BROWN

 

Party Details

Plaintiff and Respondent

LIU LONG Z.

Defendants and Appellants

WANG INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY A PROFESSIONAL LAW CORPORATION A CALIFORNIA CORPORATION

WANG TOMMY SONGFONG

WALTER WHITMAN MOORE

Attorney/Law Firm Details

Plaintiff Attorney

SHYN CASIO

Defendant Attorney

MOORE WALTER WHITMAN

 

Court Documents

Notice of Ruling

5/5/2021: Notice of Ruling

Notice of Entry of Dismissal and Proof of Service

5/5/2021: Notice of Entry of Dismissal and Proof of Service

Order - ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' SPECIAL MOTION TO STRIKE COMPLAINT AND DISMISSING COMPLAINT WITH PREJUDICE

5/5/2021: Order - ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' SPECIAL MOTION TO STRIKE COMPLAINT AND DISMISSING COMPLAINT WITH PREJUDICE

Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE; ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE RE: STATUS OF...)

5/5/2021: Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE; ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE RE: STATUS OF...)

Appeal - Remittitur - Reversed - APPEAL - REMITTITUR - REVERSED AND REMANDED (B303323)

4/14/2021: Appeal - Remittitur - Reversed - APPEAL - REMITTITUR - REVERSED AND REMANDED (B303323)

Notice - NOTICE NOTICE OF DISASSOCIATION OF COUNSEL

3/10/2021: Notice - NOTICE NOTICE OF DISASSOCIATION OF COUNSEL

Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE; ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE RE: STATUS OF...)

3/4/2021: Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE; ORDER TO SHOW CAUSE RE: STATUS OF...)

Proof of Service (not Summons and Complaint)

1/5/2021: Proof of Service (not Summons and Complaint)

Statement of the Case

1/5/2021: Statement of the Case

Notice Re: Continuance of Hearing and Order

1/6/2021: Notice Re: Continuance of Hearing and Order

Order - ORDER TENTATIVE RULING

9/1/2020: Order - ORDER TENTATIVE RULING

Memorandum of Points & Authorities

8/19/2020: Memorandum of Points & Authorities

Reply - REPLY REPLY BRIEF TO OPPOSITION

8/25/2020: Reply - REPLY REPLY BRIEF TO OPPOSITION

Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (HEARING ON MOTION FOR ATTORNEY FEES; CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE)

9/1/2020: Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (HEARING ON MOTION FOR ATTORNEY FEES; CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE)

Notice - NOTICE NOTICE OF CONTINUANCE OF HEARING AND ORDER

7/6/2020: Notice - NOTICE NOTICE OF CONTINUANCE OF HEARING AND ORDER

Notice Re: Continuance of Hearing and Order

6/29/2020: Notice Re: Continuance of Hearing and Order

Certificate of Mailing for - CERTIFICATE OF MAILING FOR [NOTICE OF CONTINUANCE DUE TO COVID-19 STATE OF EMERGENCY DECLARATIONS]

4/24/2020: Certificate of Mailing for - CERTIFICATE OF MAILING FOR [NOTICE OF CONTINUANCE DUE TO COVID-19 STATE OF EMERGENCY DECLARATIONS]

Unknown - NOTICE OF CONTINUANCE DUE TO COVID-19 STATE OF EMERGENCY DECLARATIONS

4/24/2020: Unknown - NOTICE OF CONTINUANCE DUE TO COVID-19 STATE OF EMERGENCY DECLARATIONS

48 More Documents Available

 

Docket Entries

  • 07/16/2021
  • Hearing07/16/2021 at 10:00 AM in Department J at 400 Civic Center Plaza, Pomona, CA 91766; Hearing on Motion for Attorney Fees

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  • 05/05/2021
  • Docketat 08:30 AM in Department J, Gloria White-Brown, Presiding; Order to Show Cause Re: (Status of Appeal) - Held

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  • 05/05/2021
  • Docketat 08:30 AM in Department J, Gloria White-Brown, Presiding; Case Management Conference - Held

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  • 05/05/2021
  • DocketNotice of Ruling; Filed by Songfong Tommy Wang Erroneously Sued As Tommy Songfong Wang (Defendant); Wang IP Law Group, A Professional Law Corporation Erroneously Sued As Wang Intellectual Property A Professional Law Corporation, a California Corporation (Defendant)

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  • 05/05/2021
  • DocketNotice of Entry of Dismissal and Proof of Service; Filed by Songfong Tommy Wang Erroneously Sued As Tommy Songfong Wang (Defendant); Wang IP Law Group, A Professional Law Corporation Erroneously Sued As Wang Intellectual Property A Professional Law Corporation, a California Corporation (Defendant)

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  • 05/05/2021
  • DocketOrder (Granting Defendants' Special Motion to Strike Complaint and Dismissing Complaint with Prejudice); Filed by Songfong Tommy Wang Erroneously Sued As Tommy Songfong Wang (Defendant); Wang IP Law Group, A Professional Law Corporation Erroneously Sued As Wang Intellectual Property A Professional Law Corporation, a California Corporation (Defendant)

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  • 05/05/2021
  • DocketMinute Order ( (Case Management Conference; Order to Show Cause Re: Status of...)); Filed by Clerk

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  • 04/14/2021
  • DocketAppeal - Remittitur - Reversed (and Remanded (B303323)); Filed by Clerk

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  • 03/10/2021
  • DocketNotice (Notice of Disassociation of Counsel); Filed by Long Z. Liu (Plaintiff)

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  • 03/04/2021
  • Docketat 10:00 AM in Department J, Gloria White-Brown, Presiding; Hearing on Motion for Attorney Fees (o/c per RA) - Not Held - Vacated by Court

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64 More Docket Entries
  • 11/19/2019
  • Docketat 08:30 AM in Department J, Gloria White-Brown, Presiding; Hearing on Motion to Compel Discovery (not "Further Discovery")

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  • 11/12/2019
  • DocketDemurrer - without Motion to Strike; Filed by Long Z. Liu (Plaintiff)

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  • 11/12/2019
  • DocketDeclaration (Declaration of Abraham S. Odabachian in Support of Plaintiff's Demurrer to Defendants' Joint Answer); Filed by Long Z. Liu (Plaintiff)

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  • 11/12/2019
  • DocketProof of Personal Service; Filed by Long Z. Liu (Plaintiff)

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  • 10/28/2019
  • DocketAnswer; Filed by Songfong Tommy Wang Erroneously Sued As Tommy Songfong Wang (Defendant); Wang IP Law Group, A Professional Law Corporation Erroneously Sued As Wang Intellectual Property A Professional Law Corporation, a California Corporation (Defendant)

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  • 09/26/2019
  • DocketNotice of Case Management Conference; Filed by Clerk

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  • 09/25/2019
  • DocketCivil Case Cover Sheet; Filed by Long Z. Liu (Plaintiff)

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  • 09/25/2019
  • DocketComplaint; Filed by Long Z. Liu (Plaintiff)

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  • 09/25/2019
  • DocketSummons (on Complaint); Filed by Long Z. Liu (Plaintiff)

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  • 09/25/2019
  • DocketNotice of Case Assignment - Unlimited Civil Case; Filed by Clerk

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Tentative Rulings

Case Number: *******0860    Hearing Date: December 23, 2019    Dept: J

HEARING DATE: Monday, December 23, 2019

NOTICE: OK

RE: Liu v. Wang, et al. (*******0860)

______________________________________________________________________________

 

Defendant Wang IP Law Group’s (erroneously named as Wang Intellectual Property a

Professional Law Corporation) SPECIAL MOTION TO STRIKE COMPLAINT

PURSUANT TO CODE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE SECTION 425.16

Responding Party: Plaintiff, Long Z. Liu

Tentative Ruling

Defendant Wang IP Law Group’s (erroneously named as Wang Intellectual Property a

Professional Law Corporation) Special Motion to Strike Complaint Pursuant to Code

of Civil Procedure Section 425.16 is DENIED.

Background

Plaintiff Long Z. Liu (“Plaintiff”) is an attorney. Plaintiff alleges as follows: on or about

November 29, 2017, Malinzhu Jia (“Jia”) hired Plaintiff to handle a lawsuit against numerous

individuals and business entities for the misappropriation of Jia’s $1 million investment into the

business entities for the purposes of EB-5 immigration. Plaintiff eventually represented Jia in

three matters: Case No. BC686159, Case No. B289696 and Case No. EC068424. On or about

March 27, 2019, Plaintiff was also retained by Jia to represent Jia, amongst others, in

communicating with various law enforcement agencies concerning her $1 million investment.

Plaintiff substituted out of Case No. EC068424 on or about May 20, 2019, substituted out of

Case No. BC686159 on or about August 20, 2019 and substituted out of Case No. B289696 on or

about August 23, 2019; Tommy Songfong Wang(“Wang”) of Wang IP Law Group (erroneously

named as Wang Intellectual Property a Professional Law Corporation) (“Firm”) (collectively,

“Defendants”) substituted in as counsel on each of the aforesaid cases. Notices of settlement

were filed in Case Nos. EC068424 and BC686159 almost immediately thereafter and a request

for dismissal was filed for all cases. Defendants sent a letter to Plaintiff requesting that Plaintiff

remit $300,000.00 to Jia by September 23, 2019 to avoid Jia seeking the assistance of the

California State Bar to recover fees and costs.

On September 25, 2019, Plaintiff filed a complaint, asserting causes of action against

and DOES 1-50 for:

  1. Civil Extortion

  2. California Business and Professions Code Section 17200, et seq.

A Case Management Conference is set for February 21, 2019.

Legal Standard

“A special motion to strike under section 425.16—the so-called anti-SLAPP statute—allows a defendant to seek early dismissal of a lawsuit that qualifies as a SLAPP.” (Nygard, Inc. v. Uusi-Kerttula (2008) 159 Cal.App.4th 1027, 1035.) A SLAPP is “[a] cause of action against a person arising from any act of that person in furtherance of the person’s right of petition or free speech under the United States of California Constitution in connection with a public issue.” (CCP ; 425.16(b)(1).) Such an act includes “(1) any written or oral statement or writing made before a legislative, executive, or judicial proceeding, or any other official proceeding authorized by law, (2) any written or oral statement or writing made in connection with an issue under consideration or review by a legislative, executive, or judicial body, or any other official proceeding authorized by law, (3) any written or oral statement or writing made in a place open to the public or a public forum in connection with an issue of public interest, or (4) any other conduct in furtherance of the exercise of the constitutional right of petition or the constitutional right of free speech in connection with a public issue or an issue of public interest.” (CCP ; 425.16(e).)

“When determining whether to grant an anti-SLAPP motion, the trial court engages in a two-step process. First the court decides whether the defendant has made a threshold showing that the challenged cause of action is one arising from protected activity. If the court finds such a showing has been made, it then must consider whether the plaintiff has demonstrated a probability of prevailing on the claim.” (Kronemyer v. Internet Movie Database Inc. (2007) 150 Cal.App.4th 941946 [quotations and citation omitted].)

The court shall consider the pleadings, and supporting and opposing affidavits stating the facts upon which the liability or defense is based in making its determination. (CCP ;425.16(b)(2).)

Discussion

Defendants moves the court, per CCP ; 425.16, for an order striking out the entirety of Plaintiff’s complaint, on the basis that the conduct on which Plaintiff’s claims are based, namely, the sending of a settlement demand letter, is protected activity and that Plaintiff cannot show a probability of success on the merits of his claims.

Request for Judicial Notice

The court rules on Defendants’ Request for Judicial Notice (“RJN”) as follows: GRANTED as to Exhibit A (i.e., page entitled “Mandatory Fee Arbitration Program” from California State Bar website, http: www.calbar.ca.gov/Attorneys/Attorney-Regulation/Mandatory-Fee-Arbitration); GRANTED as to Exhibit B (i.e., page entitled “Fee Disputes” from California State Bar website, http: www.calbar.ca.gov/Public/Complaints-Claims/Fee-Disputes); GRANTED as to Exhibit C (i.e., form entitled “Request for Arbitration of a Fee Dispute” from California State Bar website, http: www.calbar.ca.gov/Portals/0/documents/forms/RequestforArbitartionofFeeDispute2012.pdf); GRANTED as to Exhibit D (i.e., form entitled “Instructions and Information for Requesting Fee Arbitration” from California State Bar website, http: www.calbar.ca.gov/portals/0/documents/mfa/2016/InstructionsForRequestingArbitration201508.pdf); GRANTED as to Exhibit E (i.e., page entitled “Having a Fee Dispute with Your Lawyer?” http: www.calbar.ca.gov/Public/Free-Legal-Information/Legal-Guides/Lawyer-Fee-Dispute); GRANTED as to Exhibit F (i.e., form entitled “What Can the Mandatory Fee Arbitration Program Do for Me?” from California State Bar website, http: www.calbar.ca.gov/Portals/0/documents/mfa/What-Can-The-Mandatory-Fee-Arbitration-Program-Do-For-Me-20070530_r.pdf).

Evidentiary Objections

 

The court declines to rule on Defendants’ evidentiary objections on the basis that they do not have any effect on the court’s tentative ruling set forth below.

Merits

Defendants assert that Plaintiff’s causes of action arise from protected activity, i.e., Defendants’ letter dated September 12, 2019 (“subject letter”) to Plaintiff, which Defendants characterize as a settlement demand letter sent to Plaintiff on behalf of a former client regarding a fee dispute and made in anticipation of the initiation of State Bar sponsored fee arbitration.

“[C]ommunications preparatory to or in anticipation of the bringing or an action of other official proceeding. . .are. . . entitled to the benefits of section 425.16.” (Dove Audio, Inc. v. Rosenfeld, Meyer & Susman (1996) 47 Cal.App.4th 777, 784.)

“[W]here a defendant brings a motion to strike under section 425.16 based on a claim that the plaintiff’s action arises from activity by the defendant in furtherance of the defendant’s exercise of protected speech or petition rights, but either the defendant concedes, or the evidence conclusively establishes, that the assertedly protected speech or petition activity was illegal as a matter of law, the defendant is precluded from using the anti-SLAPP statute to strike the plaintiff’s action. . . the question of whether the defendant’s underlying conduct was illegal as a matter of law is preliminary, and unrelated to the second prong question of whether the plaintiff has demonstrated a probability of prevailing, and the showing required to establish conduct illegal as a matter of law—either through defendant’s concession or by uncontroverted and conclusive evidence—is not the same showing as the plaintiff’s second prong showing of probability of prevailing.” (Flatley v. Mauro (2006) 39 Cal.4th 299, 320.)

“Extortion is the obtaining or property or other consideration from another, with his or her consent,. . . induced by a wrongful use of force or fear. . .” (Penal Code ; 518.) “Fear, such as will constitute extortion, may be induced by a threat of any of the following:. . .2. To accuse the individual threatened. . .of a crime. 3. To expose, or to impute to him,. . . a deformity, disgrace, or crime. . .” (Penal Code ; 519.) “Every person who, with intent to extort money or other consideration from another, sends or delivers to any person any letter or other writing,. . . expressing or implying, or adapted to imply, any threat such as is specified in Section 519 is punishable in the same manner as if such property or other consideration were actually obtained by means of such threat.” (Penal Code ; 523 [emphasis added].)

Extortion “criminalizes the making of threats that, in and of themselves, may not be illegal.” (Flatley, supra, 39 Cal.4th at 326.) “[I]n many blackmail cases the threat it to do something in itself perfectly legal, but that threat nevertheless becomes illegal when coupled with a demand for money.” (Philippine Export & Foreign Loan Guarantee Corp. v. Chuidian (1990) 218 Cal.App.3d 1058, 1079.) “Moreover, threats to do the acts that constitute extortion under Penal Code section 519 are extortionate whether or not the victim committed the crime or indiscretion upon which the threat is based and whether or not the person making the threat could have reported the victim to the authorities or arrested the victim.” (Flatley, supra, 39 Cal.4th at 327.) “[T]he crime with which the extortionist threatens his or her victim need not be a specific crime.” (Id.) In fact, “[t]he more vague and general the terms of the accusation, the better it would subserve the purpose of the accuser in magnifying the fears of his victim, and the better also it would serve to protect him in the event of the failure to accomplish his extortion, and of a prosecution for his attempted crime.” (People v. Sanders (1922) 188 Cal. 744-749-750.)

“’No precise or particular form or words is necessary in order to constitute a threat under the circumstances. Threats can be made by innuendo and the circumstances under which the threat is utters and the relations between [the defendant] and the [target of the threats] may be taken into consideration in making a determination of the question involved.’” (Stenehjem v. Sareen (2014) 226 Cal.App.4th 1405, 1424, quoting People v. Oppenheimer (1962) 209 Cal.App.2d 413, 422.)

Flatley specifically notes that “[a]ttorneys are not exempt from these principles [regarding extortion] in their professional conduct. Indeed, the Rules of Professional Conduct specifically prohibit attorneys from ‘threaten[ing] to present criminal, administration, or disciplinary charges to obtain an advantage in a civil dispute.” (Flatley, supra, 39 Cal.4th at 627 [citing former Rule of Prof. Conduct, rule 5-100(A)].)

“[E]xtortion is not constitutionally protected speech and thus cannot constitute the ‘valid’ exercise or speech and petition that is protected by section 425.16.” (Cohen v. Brown (2009) 173 Cal.App.4th 302, 317.)

Here, Defendants do not concede that the subject letter was illegal as a matter of law; however, Defendants do not dispute that they sent the subject letter. The court, then, must determine whether the evidence conclusively establishes whether the subject letter is illegal as a matter of law.

The subject letter opens as follows:

Re: Demand for Reimbursement of Legal Fees and Expenses to Malinzhu Jia

Dear Mr. Liu:

Please be advised that Malinzhu Jia (‘Client’) has requested our form to review your firm’s billing out of concern that over $350,000.00 in attorney’s fees was charged for a case that never got further than an initial demurrer. Upon review of your firm’s billing records, there are several discrepancies, including but not limited to the following:. . .” (Wang Decl., ¶2, Exh. 1.)

The subject letter subsequently sets forth an 8-page discussion under the headings “Hearing and Meetings,” “Discovery” and “Excessive Billing,” wherein Defendants provide more specific support for their overbilling contention. Under the “Conclusion” heading, the subject letter states, in relevant part, as follows:

“We received from your office three boxes of files on Monday, September 9, 2019. The documents were largely unbound and disorganized. The above is a representation of what we were able to gather over the last couple of days. Given more time, we will likely find more egregious actions in addition to those listed above.

While our Client is entitled to much more, without wasting more time and resources and in the interest of resolving this matter amicably, our Client is willing to accept a return of $300,000.00 of the inflated fees she was billed for by your firm. Our Client looks forward to receiving the requested refund no later than Monday, September 23, 2019.

Should you fail to remit the requested refund to our Client, our Client will be forced to seek the assistance of the California State Bar to recover all fees and costs incurred. . .” (Id. [emphasis in original].)

The court determines that the subject letter constitutes extortion as a matter of law. The subject letter implicitly threatens Plaintiff with disciplinary action by the State Bar unless Plaintiff remits a requested refund of $300,000.00 to Defendants’ client no later than September 23, 2019. Although Defendants urge that they were referencing the initiation of State Bar sponsored fee arbitration, the subject letter nowhere contains the term “fee arbitration” nor does it include any attachments regarding fee arbitration. The subject letter’s ambiguity is construed against Defendants. Here, the subject letter constitutes a threat of imputing to Plaintiff a “disgrace.”

Based on the foregoing, the court finds that the conduct constitutes extortion as a matter of law and is therefore not protected under CCP ; 425.16. Since this conduct is not protected, the court need not reach the second step of the anti-SLAPP analysis. The motion is DENIED.


Case Number: *******0860    Hearing Date: September 01, 2020    Dept: J

HEARING DATE: Tuesday, September 1, 2020

NOTICE: OK[1]

RE: Liu v. Wang, et al. (*******0860)

______________________________________________________________________________

 

Plaintiff Long Z. Liu’s MOTION FOR ATTORNEY’S FEES AND COSTS PURSUANT

TO CODE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE ; 425.16(c)

Responding Party: Defendants, Wang IP Law Group and Songfong Tommy Wang

Tentative Ruling

The hearing on Plaintiff Long Z. Liu’s Motion for Attorney’s Fees and Costs Pursuant to

Code of Civil Procedure ; 425.16(c) is continued to ______________________.

Background

Plaintiff Long Z. Liu (“Plaintiff”) is an attorney. Plaintiff alleges as follows: on or about

November 29, 2017, Malinzhu Jia (“Jia”) hired Plaintiff to handle a lawsuit against numerous

individuals and business entities for the misappropriation of Jia’s $1 million investment into the

business entities for the purposes of EB-5 immigration. Plaintiff eventually represented Jia in

three matters: Case No. BC686159, Case No. B289696 and Case No. EC068424. On or about

March 27, 2019, Plaintiff was also retained by Jia to represent Jia, amongst others, in

communicating with various law enforcement agencies concerning her $1 million investment.

Plaintiff substituted out of Case No. EC068424 on or about May 20, 2019, substituted out of

Case No. BC686159 on or about August 20, 2019 and substituted out of Case No. B289696 on or

about August 23, 2019; Tommy Songfong Wang (“Wang”) of Wang IP Law Group (erroneously

named as Wang Intellectual Property a Professional Law Corporation) (“Firm”) (collectively,

“Defendants”) substituted in as counsel on each of the aforesaid cases. Notices of settlement

were filed in Case Nos. EC068424 and BC686159 almost immediately thereafter and a request

for dismissal was filed for all cases. Defendants sent a letter to Plaintiff requesting that Plaintiff

remit $300,000.00 to Jia by September 23, 2019 to avoid Jia seeking the assistance of the

California State Bar to recover fees and costs.

On September 25, 2019, Plaintiff filed a complaint, asserting causes of action against

and DOES 1-50 for:

  1. Civil Extortion

  2. California Business and Professions Code Section 17200, et seq.

A Case Management Conference is set for September 1, 2020.

Legal Standard

“If the court finds that a special motion to strike is frivolous or is solely intended to cause unnecessary delay, the court shall costs and reasonable attorney’s fees to a plaintiff prevailing on the motion, pursuant to Section 128.5.” (Code Civ. Proc., ; 425.16, subd. (c)(1).) “The ‘reference to section 128.5 in section 425.16, subdivision (c) means a court must use the procedures and apply the substantive standards of section 128.5 in deciding whether to award attorney fees under the anti-SLAPP statute.’ [Citation.]” (Moore v. Shaw (2004) 116 Cal.App.4th 182, 199.)

Frivolous means “totally and completely without merit,” or “for the sole purpose of harassing an opposing party.” (Code Civ. Proc., ; 128.5, subd. (b)(2); Baughn v. Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (2016) 246 Cal.App.4th 328, 341.) This requires a finding that “any reasonable attorney would agree such motion is totally devoid of merit.” (Moore, supra, 116 Cal.App.4th at 199.)

Discussion

Plaintiff moves the court for an order awarding Plaintiff reasonable attorney’s fees and costs, in the amount of $29,941.00, to be paid by Wang and/or Firm and/or Attorney Walter Whitman Moore and/or the Licensed to Sue (“Attorney Moore”) and/or Attorney James I. Ham and/or the Law Offices of James I. Ham A Professional Corporation (“Attorney Ham”), jointly and severally, on the basis that Wang’s and Firm’s anti-SLAPP Motion was factually and legally frivolous and made solely to delay the proceedings.

On November 25, 2019, Defendants filed their “Special Motion to Strike Complaint Pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure ; 425.16” (“Motion.”) On December 23, 2019, the court heard the Motion and took same under submission. On December 30, 2019, the court adopted its tentative ruling and denied the Motion; that day, Defendants filed a “Notice of Appeal.”

“Except as provided in Sections 917.1 to 917.9, inclusive, and in Section 116.80, the perfecting of an appeal stays proceedings in the trial court upon the judgment or order appealed from or upon the matters embraced thereby, including enforcement of the judgment or order, but the trial court may proceed upon any other matter embraced in the action and not affected by the judgment or order.” (Code Civ. Proc., ; 916, subd. (a).) “When there is a stay of proceedings other than the enforcement of the judgment, the trial court shall have jurisdiction of proceedings related to the enforcement of the judgment as well as any other matter embraced in the action and not affected by the judgment or order appealed from.” (Code Civ., Proc., ; 916, subd. (b).) The automatic stay provision under Code of Civil Procedure ; 916 does not apply to a motion for attorney’s fees pursuant to a successful anti-LSAPP motion: “Even if the order granting the [special motion to strike] has been appealed, the trial court retains jurisdiction to entertain a motion for attorney fees.” (Doe v. Luster (2006) 145 Cal.App.4th 139, 144.) With that said, “[t]rial courts generally have the inherent power to stay proceedings in the interests of justice and to promote judicial efficiency.” (Freiberg v. City of Mission Viejo (1995) 33 Cal.App.4th 1484, 1489.)

The court has reviewed the Second District Court of Appeal’s website at http: www.courts.ca.gov/2dca.htm with respect to case information for the instant matter (Court of Appeal Case No. B303323) as of August 27, 2020 at 2:37 p.m. and notes that the record on appeal was filed July 10, 2020 and that appellant’s opening brief was due August 19, 2020. The court elects to defer ruling on the instant motion at this juncture pending resolution of the appeal. The court will continue the hearing on the instant motion and set an Order to Show Cause Re: Status of Appeal for ________________________.


[1] The motion was filed on February 11, 2020 (personally served on February 12, 2020) and originally set for hearing on June 5, 2020. On April 24, 2020, a “Notice of Continuance Due to COVI-19 State of Emergency Declarations” was filed, in which the court, on its own motion, continued the June 5, 2020 hearing to September 22, 2020 at 10:00 a.m.; notice was given to both counsel. On June 29, 2020, a “Notice Re: Continuance of Hearing and Order” was filed, in which the court, on its own motion, advanced the September 22, 2020 hearing to September 1, 2020 at 10:00 a.m.; notice was given to both counsel. On July 6, 2020, Plaintiff filed (mail-served on July 3, 2020) a “Notice of Continuance of Hearing and Order,” advising of the September 1, 2020 hearing date/time.


Case Number: *******0860    Hearing Date: January 07, 2021    Dept: J

HEARING DATE: Thursday, January 7, 2021

NOTICE: OK[1]

RE: Liu v. Wang, et al. (*******0860)

______________________________________________________________________________

 

Plaintiff Long Z. Liu’s MOTION FOR ATTORNEY’S FEES AND COSTS PURSUANT

TO CODE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE ; 425.16(c)

Responding Party: Defendants, Wang IP Law Group and Songfong Tommy Wang

Tentative Ruling

The hearing on Plaintiff Long Z. Liu’s Motion for Attorney’s Fees and Costs Pursuant to

Code of Civil Procedure ; 425.16(c) is continued to March 4, 2021 at 10 a.m.

Background

Plaintiff Long Z. Liu (“Plaintiff”) is an attorney. Plaintiff alleges as follows: on or about

November 29, 2017, Malinzhu Jia (“Jia”) hired Plaintiff to handle a lawsuit against numerous

individuals and business entities for the misappropriation of Jia’s $1 million investment into the

business entities for the purposes of EB-5 immigration. Plaintiff eventually represented Jia in

three matters: Case No. BC686159, Case No. B289696 and Case No. EC068424. On or about

March 27, 2019, Plaintiff was also retained by Jia to represent Jia, amongst others, in

communicating with various law enforcement agencies concerning her $1 million investment.

Plaintiff substituted out of Case No. EC068424 on or about May 20, 2019, substituted out of

Case No. BC686159 on or about August 20, 2019 and substituted out of Case No. B289696 on or

about August 23, 2019; Tommy Songfong Wang (“Wang”) of Wang IP Law Group (erroneously

named as Wang Intellectual Property a Professional Law Corporation) (“Firm”) (collectively,

“Defendants”) substituted in as counsel on each of the aforesaid cases. Notices of settlement

were filed in Case Nos. EC068424 and BC686159 almost immediately thereafter and a request

for dismissal was filed for all cases. Defendants sent a letter to Plaintiff requesting that Plaintiff

remit $300,000.00 to Jia by September 23, 2019 to avoid Jia seeking the assistance of the

California State Bar to recover fees and costs.

On September 25, 2019, Plaintiff filed a complaint, asserting causes of action against

and DOES 1-50 for:

  1. Civil Extortion

  2. California Business and Professions Code Section 17200, et seq.

An Order to Show Cause Re: Status of Appeal is set for January 7, 2021.

Legal Standard

“If the court finds that a special motion to strike is frivolous or is solely intended to cause unnecessary delay, the court shall costs and reasonable attorney’s fees to a plaintiff prevailing on the motion, pursuant to Section 128.5.” (Code Civ. Proc., ; 425.16, subd. (c)(1).) “The ‘reference to section 128.5 in section 425.16, subdivision (c) means a court must use the procedures and apply the substantive standards of section 128.5 in deciding whether to award attorney fees under the anti-SLAPP statute.’ [Citation.]” (Moore v. Shaw (2004) 116 Cal.App.4th 182, 199.)

Frivolous means “totally and completely without merit,” or “for the sole purpose of harassing an opposing party.” (Code Civ. Proc., ; 128.5, subd. (b)(2); Baughn v. Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (2016) 246 Cal.App.4th 328, 341.) This requires a finding that “any reasonable attorney would agree such motion is totally devoid of merit.” (Moore, supra, 116 Cal.App.4th at 199.)

Discussion

Plaintiff moves the court for an order awarding Plaintiff reasonable attorney’s fees and costs, in the amount of $29,941.00, to be paid by Wang and/or Firm and/or Attorney Walter Whitman Moore and/or the Licensed to Sue (“Attorney Moore”) and/or Attorney James I. Ham and/or the Law Offices of James I. Ham A Professional Corporation (“Attorney Ham”), jointly and severally, on the basis that Wang’s and Firm’s anti-SLAPP Motion was factually and legally frivolous and made solely to delay the proceedings.

On November 25, 2019, Defendants filed their “Special Motion to Strike Complaint Pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure ; 425.16” (“Motion.”) On December 23, 2019, the court heard the Motion and took same under submission. On December 30, 2019, the court adopted its tentative ruling and denied the Motion; that day, Defendants filed a “Notice of Appeal.”

“Except as provided in Sections 917.1 to 917.9, inclusive, and in Section 116.80, the perfecting of an appeal stays proceedings in the trial court upon the judgment or order appealed from or upon the matters embraced thereby, including enforcement of the judgment or order, but the trial court may proceed upon any other matter embraced in the action and not affected by the judgment or order.” (Code Civ. Proc., ; 916, subd. (a).) “When there is a stay of proceedings other than the enforcement of the judgment, the trial court shall have jurisdiction of proceedings related to the enforcement of the judgment as well as any other matter embraced in the action and not affected by the judgment or order appealed from.” (Code Civ., Proc., ; 916, subd. (b).) The automatic stay provision under Code of Civil Procedure ; 916 does not apply to a motion for attorney’s fees pursuant to a successful anti-SLAPP motion: “Even if the order granting the [special motion to strike] has been appealed, the trial court retains jurisdiction to entertain a motion for attorney fees.” (Doe v. Luster (2006) 145 Cal.App.4th 139, 144.) With that said, “[t]rial courts generally have the inherent power to stay proceedings in the interests of justice and to promote judicial efficiency.” (Freiberg v. City of Mission Viejo (1995) 33 Cal.App.4th 1484, 1489.)

The court has reviewed the Second District Court of Appeal’s website at http: www.courts.ca.gov/2dca.htm with respect to case information for the instant matter (Court of Appeal Case No. B303323) as of December 28, 2020 at 12:40 p.m. and notes that the case was fully briefed as of December 1, 2020 and is set for oral argument on February 10, 2021. The court elects to defer ruling on the instant motion at this juncture pending resolution of the appeal. The court will continue the hearing on the instant motion and on the Order to Show Cause Re: Status of Appeal to March 4, 2021 at 10 a.m.


[1] The motion was filed on February 11, 2020 (personally served on February 12, 2020) and originally set for hearing on June 5, 2020. On April 24, 2020, a “Notice of Continuance Due to COVI-19 State of Emergency Declarations” was filed, in which the court, on its own motion, continued the June 5, 2020 hearing to September 22, 2020; notice was given to both counsel. On June 29, 2020, a “Notice Re: Continuance of Hearing and Order” was filed, in which the court, on its own motion, advanced the September 22, 2020 hearing to September 1, 2020; notice was given to both counsel. On July 6, 2020, Plaintiff filed (mail-served on July 3, 2020) a “Notice of Continuance of Hearing and Order,” advising of the September 1, 2020 hearing date/time. On September 1, 2020, the court, on its own motion, continued the hearing to January 7, 2021; notice was waived.


Case Number: *******0860 Hearing Date: August 13, 2021 Dept: J

HEARING DATE: Friday, August 13, 2021

NOTICE: OK

RE: Liu v. Wang, et al. (*******0860)

______________________________________________________________________________

Defendants Wang IP Law Group’s and Songfong Tommy Wang’s MOTION FOR

ATTORNEY’S FEES PURSUANT TO CODE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE ; 425.16(c)

Responding Party: Plaintiff, Long Z. Liu

Tentative Ruling

Defendants Wang IP Law Group’s and Songfong Tommy Wang’s Motion for Attorney’s

Fees Pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure ; 425.16(c) is GRANTED, in the reduced amount

of $46,250.00.

Background

Plaintiff Long Z. Liu (“Plaintiff”) is an attorney. Plaintiff alleges as follows: on or about

November 29, 2017, Malinzhu Jia (“Jia”) hired Plaintiff to handle a lawsuit against numerous

individuals and business entities for the misappropriation of Jia’s $1 million investment into the

business entities for the purposes of EB-5 immigration. Plaintiff eventually represented Jia in

three matters: Case No. BC686159, Case No. B289696 and Case No. EC068424. On or about

March 27, 2019, Plaintiff was also retained by Jia to represent Jia, amongst others, in

communicating with various law enforcement agencies concerning her $1 million investment.

Plaintiff substituted out of Case No. EC068424 on or about May 20, 2019, substituted out of

Case No. BC686159 on or about August 20, 2019 and substituted out of Case No. B289696 on or

about August 23, 2019; Tommy Songfong Wang (“Wang”) of Wang IP Law Group (erroneously

named as Wang Intellectual Property a Professional Law Corporation) (“Firm”) (collectively,

“Defendants”) substituted in as counsel on each of the aforesaid cases. Notices of settlement

were filed in Case Nos. EC068424 and BC686159 almost immediately thereafter and a request

for dismissal was filed for all cases. Defendants sent a letter to Plaintiff requesting that Plaintiff

remit $300,000.00 to Jia by September 23, 2019 to avoid Jia seeking the assistance of the

California State Bar to recover fees and costs.

On September 25, 2019, Plaintiff filed a complaint, asserting causes of action against Defendants

and DOES 1-50 for:

1. Civil Extortion

2. California Business and Professions Code Section 17200, et seq.

On April 14, 2021, a remittitur was filed. On May 5, 2021, the court granted Defendants’ Anti-SLAPP Motion and ordered the complaint dismissed without prejudice.

Discussion

Defendants move the court for an award of attorney’s fees against Plaintiff in the amount of $261,875.50[1] or such other amount as the court awards in accordance with the law.

Evidentiary Objections

The court rules on Defendants’ evidentiary objections as follows:

--As to David Lopez Declaration: Sustained as to ¶ 5;

--As to David Lee Declaration: Overruled as to No. 1 and otherwise Sustained.

Merits

Entitlement to Fees

“A cause of action against a person arising from any act of that person in furtherance of the person\'s right of petition or free speech under the United States Constitution or the California Constitution in connection with a public issue shall be subject to a special motion to strike, unless the court determines that the plaintiff has established that there is a probability that the plaintiff will prevail on the claim.” (Code Civ. Proc., ; 425.16, subd. (b)(1).) “[I]n any action subject to subdivision (b), a prevailing defendant on a special motion to strike shall be entitled to recover his or her attorney\'s fees and costs…” (Code Civ. Proc., ; 425.16, subd. (c)(1).)

“The language of the anti-SLAPP statute is mandatory; it requires a fee award to a defendant who brings a successful motion to strike.” (Cabral v. Martins (2009) 177 Cal.App.4th 471, 490.)

“In awarding fees the trial court is not constrained by the amount sought by the successful moving parties, but is obligated to award reasonable attorney fees under section 425.16 [that] adequately compensate [ ] them for the expense of responding to a baseless lawsuit. The fees awarded should include services for all proceedings, including discovery initiated by the opposing party pursuant to section 425.16, subdivision (g), directly related to the special motion to strike.” (Jackson v. Yarbray (2009) 179 Cal.App.4th 75, 92 [quotation marks and citations omitted].)

“Appellate challenges concerning the motion to strike are also subject to an award of fees and costs, which are determined by the trial court after the appeal is resolved.” (Christian Research Institute v. Alnor (2008) 165 Cal.App.4th 1315, 1320.)

Further, “an award of fees may include not only the fees incurred with respect to the underlying claim, but also the fees incurred in enforcing the right to mandatory fees under Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16.” (Ketchum v. Moses (2001) 24 Cal.4th 1122, 1141.)

On April 14, 2021, a remittitur was filed. Again, on May 5, 2021, the court granted Defendants’ Anti-SLAPP Motion and ordered the complaint dismissed without prejudice. A fee award, then, is mandatory.

Reasonableness of Fees

The court turns to the issue of reasonableness of the fees sought. “[T]rial courts have broad discretion in determining the amount of a reasonable attorney\'s fee award. This determination is necessarily ad hoc and must be resolved on the particular circumstances of each case.” (Meister v. Regents of University of California (1998) 67 Cal.App.4th 437, 452.) “Trial judges are entrusted with this discretionary determination because they are in the best position to assess the value of the professional services rendered in their courts.” (Christian Research Institute, supra, 165 Cal.App.4th at 1321.) “A fee request that appears unreasonably inflated is a special circumstance permitting the trial court to reduce the award or deny one altogether.” (Ketchum, supra, 24 Cal.4th at 1137 [quotation marks and citation omitted].) “A trial court\'s attorney fee award will not be set aside absent a showing that it is manifestly excessive in the circumstances.” (Raining Data Corp. v. Barrenechea (2009) 175 Cal.App.4th 1363, 1375 [quotation marks and citation omitted].)

“[O]nce a party has established he or she is entitled to fees, the lodestar method is generally presumed to be the starting point in analyzing the appropriate amount of attorney fees. Under this method, a court first calculates the number of hours reasonably spent multiplied by the reasonable hourly rate for each billing professional, and then may adjust the amount based on various relevant factors to ensure the fee reflects the fair market value [of the attorney services] for the particular action. (K.I. v. Wagner (2014) 225 Cal.App.4th 1412, 1425 [quotation marks and citations omitted].)

“Using the lodestar as the basis for the attorney fee award anchors the trial court\'s analysis to an objective determination of the value of an attorney\'s services, ensuring that the amount awarded is not arbitrary.” (Bernardi v. County of Monterey (2008) 167 Cal.App.4th 1379, 1393-1394 [quotation marks and citation omitted].)

Again, the court is only required to award reasonable attorney fees. The court finds that Defendants’ claim for $261,875.50 in fees, based upon 382.3 hours billed at $685.00/hour, is excessive. Based on the court’s own experience and knowledge, as well as on the experience and qualifications of counsel as set forth in Moore’s and Ham’s various declaration, the court finds that a blended (i.e., of the $350.00/hour and $575.00/hour rates) hourly rate of $462.50 is reasonable. The court believes that Defendants’ request, as set forth in their notice of motion, for $65,807.95 in fees incurred simply in opposing Plaintiff’s earlier motion for attorney’s fees and in filing this instant motion is outrageously unreasonable. The court further believes that “the matter was not so complex as to require anywhere near the massive number of hours for which counsel demanded fees.” (Christian Research Institute, supra, 165 Cal.App.4th at 1327.)

The court is inclined to award attorney’s fees in the reduced amount of $46,250.00 (i.e., $462.50/hour (x) 100 hours), which is broken down into 45 hours for the motion, 50 hours for the appeal and 5 hours for the instant attorney’s fees motion.


[1] Calculated at $685.00/hour (x) 286.31 hours in the original motion; this figure, in turn, is itemized as follows: $4,850.80 for “[d]iscovery for [m]otion to [s]trike” (i.e., 7.08 hours); $55,971.35 for “[m]otion to [s]trike [p]ursuant to ; 425.16” (i.e., 81.71 hours); $46,970.45 for “[o]pposition to Plaintiff’s [a]ttorneys’ [f]ees [m]otion” (i.e., 68.57 hours); $69,493.25 for “[a]ppeal of [o]rder [d]enying [m]otion to [s]trike” (i.e., 101.45 hours) and $18,837.50 for “Defendants’ [a]ttorneys’ [f]ees [m]otion” (i.e., “at least 25 hours”). Defendants request an additional $24,002.40 via the “Supplemental Declaration of Walter Whitman Moore in Support of Defendants’ Motion for Attorneys’ Fees” (i.e., $15,508.40) and the “Supplemental Declaration of James I. Ham in Support of Defendants’ Motion for Attorneys’ Fees” (i.e., $8,494.00) filed July 20, 2021. Defendants request an additional $41,750.75 via the reply declarations of Moore (i.e., $33,462.25) and Ham (i.e., $8,288.50) filed August 6, 2021.


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