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This case was last updated from Los Angeles County Superior Courts on 06/17/2019 at 21:44:00 (UTC).

TRACE MEDIA INC VS L A COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT ET AL

Case Summary

On 10/27/2017 TRACE MEDIA INC filed an Other - Other Judicial Review lawsuit against L A COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT. This case was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Courts, Stanley Mosk Courthouse located in Los Angeles, California. The Judge overseeing this case is AMY D. HOGUE. The case status is Disposed - Judgment Entered.

Case Details Parties Documents Dockets

 

Case Details

  • Case Number:

    ****1324

  • Filing Date:

    10/27/2017

  • Case Status:

    Disposed - Judgment Entered

  • Case Type:

    Other - Other Judicial Review

  • Court:

    Los Angeles County Superior Courts

  • Courthouse:

    Stanley Mosk Courthouse

  • County, State:

    Los Angeles, California

Judge Details

Presiding Judge

AMY D. HOGUE

 

Party Details

Plaintiff and Petitioner

TRACE MEDIA INC.

Defendants and Respondents

DOES 1-10

LOS ANGELES COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT

MCDONNELL JIM

Attorney/Law Firm Details

Plaintiff and Petitioner Attorney

JASSY VICK CAROLAN LLP

Respondent and Defendant Attorney

ROTHANS STEVEN J. ESQ.

 

Court Documents

DECLARATION OF KEVIN L. VICK AND EXHIBITS A-N IN SUPPORT OF PETITIONER TRACE MEDIA INC.'S MOTION TO COMPEL RESPONDENT COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES TO PROVIDE FURTHER RESPONSES TO INTERROGATORIES

5/31/2018: DECLARATION OF KEVIN L. VICK AND EXHIBITS A-N IN SUPPORT OF PETITIONER TRACE MEDIA INC.'S MOTION TO COMPEL RESPONDENT COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES TO PROVIDE FURTHER RESPONSES TO INTERROGATORIES

SEPARATE STATEMENT IN SUPPORT OF PETITIONER TRACE MEDIA INC.'S MOTION TO COMPEL RESPONDENT COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES TO PROVIDE FURTHER RESPONSES TO INTERROGATORIES

5/31/2018: SEPARATE STATEMENT IN SUPPORT OF PETITIONER TRACE MEDIA INC.'S MOTION TO COMPEL RESPONDENT COUNTY OF LOS ANGELES TO PROVIDE FURTHER RESPONSES TO INTERROGATORIES

PETITIONER TRACE MEDIA INC.'S MEMORANDUM OF POINTS AND AUTHORITIES IN SUPPORT OF VERIFIED PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDATE ORDERING COMPLIANCE WITH THE CALIFORNIA PUBLIC RECORDS ACT AND ARTICLE 1,; ETC.

5/31/2018: PETITIONER TRACE MEDIA INC.'S MEMORANDUM OF POINTS AND AUTHORITIES IN SUPPORT OF VERIFIED PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDATE ORDERING COMPLIANCE WITH THE CALIFORNIA PUBLIC RECORDS ACT AND ARTICLE 1,; ETC.

PETITIONER TRACE MEDIA INC.'S REPLY BRIEF IN SUPPORT OF VERIFIED PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDATE ORDERING COMPLIANCE WITH THE CALIFORNIA PUBLIC RECORDS ACT AND ARTICLE 1, SECTION 3(B) OF THE CALIFORNIA C

8/3/2018: PETITIONER TRACE MEDIA INC.'S REPLY BRIEF IN SUPPORT OF VERIFIED PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDATE ORDERING COMPLIANCE WITH THE CALIFORNIA PUBLIC RECORDS ACT AND ARTICLE 1, SECTION 3(B) OF THE CALIFORNIA C

NOTICE OF RULING

8/21/2018: NOTICE OF RULING

Minute Order

10/1/2018: Minute Order

Notice of Lodging

11/15/2018: Notice of Lodging

Motion for Sanctions

12/4/2018: Motion for Sanctions

Request for Judicial Notice

12/4/2018: Request for Judicial Notice

Opposition

1/24/2019: Opposition

Opposition

1/28/2019: Opposition

Minute Order

3/8/2019: Minute Order

Minute Order

3/29/2019: Minute Order

Minute Order

5/1/2019: Minute Order

Response

5/14/2019: Response

Minute Order

5/15/2019: Minute Order

Minute Order

2/2/2018: Minute Order

SUMMONS

10/27/2017: SUMMONS

46 More Documents Available

 

Docket Entries

  • 05/22/2019
  • at 09:30 AM in Department 86; Order to Show Cause Re: (Compliance) - Held - Continued

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  • 05/22/2019
  • at 09:30 AM in Department 86; Hearing on Motion for Sanctions - Held - Continued

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  • 05/22/2019
  • Minute Order ( (Order to Show Cause Re: Compliance; Hearing on Motion for San...)); Filed by Clerk

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  • 05/21/2019
  • Notice (OF NONRECEIPT FROM RESPONDENTS OF COURT-ORDERED MATERIAL); Filed by Trace Media Inc. (Plaintiff)

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  • 05/21/2019
  • Notice (of Entry of Judgment); Filed by Trace Media Inc. (Plaintiff)

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  • 05/17/2019
  • Judgment; Filed by Trace Media Inc. (Plaintiff)

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  • 05/15/2019
  • at 09:30 AM in Department 86; Nunc Pro Tunc Order

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  • 05/15/2019
  • at 09:30 AM in Department 86; Order to Show Cause Re: (Compliance) - Held - Continued

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 05/15/2019
  • at 09:30 AM in Department 86; Hearing on Motion for Sanctions - Held - Continued

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 05/15/2019
  • Minute Order ( (Order to Show Cause Re: Compliance; Hearing on Motion for San...)); Filed by Clerk

    Read MoreRead Less
85 More Docket Entries
  • 11/02/2017
  • Notice of Trial Setting Conference and Attached Orders Thereon; Filed by Clerk

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  • 11/02/2017
  • NOTICE OF TRIAL SETTING CONFERENCE & ATTACHED ORDERS THEREON

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  • 11/02/2017
  • Notice of Trial Setting Conference and Attached Orders Thereon; Filed by Clerk

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  • 11/01/2017
  • Proof-Service/Summons; Filed by Trace Media Inc. (Plaintiff)

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  • 11/01/2017
  • PROOF OF SERVICE SUMMONS

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  • 11/01/2017
  • PROOF OF SERVICE SUMMONS

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  • 11/01/2017
  • Proof-Service/Summons; Filed by Trace Media Inc. (Plaintiff)

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  • 10/27/2017
  • Petition; Filed by null

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  • 10/27/2017
  • SUMMONS

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  • 10/27/2017
  • VERIFIED PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDATE ORDERING COMPLIANCE WITH THE CALIFORNIA PUBLIC RECORDS ACT ETC.

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Tentative Rulings

Case Number: BS171324    Hearing Date: October 30, 2020    Dept: 86

TRACE MEDIA INC. v. LOS ANGELES COUNTY SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT

Case Number: BS171324

Hearing Date: October 30, 2020

[Tentative] ORDER GRANTING PETITIONER’S MOTION FOR ATTORNEY FEES


Petitioner, Trace Media Inc., requests attorney fees in the amount of $42,748.92

pursuant to Government Code section 6259, subd. (d) and Code of Civil Procedure section 1021.5.[1]

Respondent County of Los Angeles opposes the motion.

The motion is GRANTED in a reduced amount of $31,080.

APPLICABLE LAW

In the context of the California Public Records Act (CPRA), Government Code section 6259 provides “The court shall award court costs and reasonable attorney's fees to the requester should the requester prevail in litigation filed pursuant to this section.” (Gov. Code § 6259, subd. (d).)

Code of Civil Procedure § 1021.5, authorizing the award of attorney’s fees in “public interest” litigation, provides as follows in relevant part:

“Upon motion, a court may award attorneys' fees to a successful party against one or more opposing parties in any action which has resulted in the enforcement of an important right affecting the public interest if: (a) a significant benefit, whether pecuniary or nonpecuniary, has been conferred on the general public or a large class of persons, (b) the necessity and financial burden of private enforcement … are such as to make the award appropriate, and (c) such fees should not in the interest of justice be paid out of the recovery, if any.” 

The basic objective of the “private attorney general” doctrine “is to encourage suits enforcing important public policies by providing substantial attorney fees to successful litigants in such cases.” (Maria P. v. Riles (1987) 43 Cal.3d 1281, 1289; Graham v. DaimlerChrysler Corp. (2004) 34 Cal.4th 553, 565.) The statute awards successful public interest litigants with attorney’s fees where the three statutory requirements are established. (Vasquez v. State of California (2008) 45 Cal.4th 243, 250-251.) The burden is on the fee claimant to establish each statutory requirement, including that its litigation costs transcend its personal interest in the litigation. (Save Open Space Santa Monica Mountains v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County (2000) 84 Cal.App.4th 235, 246.)

The issue of whether to award fees is committed to the trial court’s discretion. (Flannery v. California Highway Patrol (1998) 61 Cal.App.4th 629, 634.)

ANALYSIS

Petitioner is Entitled to an Award of Attorneys’ Fees:

Petitioner argues it is entitled to attorneys’ fees pursuant to Government Code section 6259. In opposition, Respondent argues Government Code section 6259 only allows an award of reasonable attorneys’ fees.

The CPRA provides "[t]he court shall award costs and reasonable attorney fees to the plaintiff should the plaintiff prevail in litigation filed pursuant to this section." (Gov. Code § 6259, subd. (d).)

Here, there is no dispute between the parties—Petitioner is entitled to fees pursuant to Government Code section 6259. The issue for the court is the amount of a reasonable fee award.

The Amount of Attorneys’ Fees Sought Requires a Reduction to Create a Reasonable Fee Award:

Petitioner requests attorneys’ fees in the amount of $42,748.92. As the parties are aware, this court is very familiar with the case having presided over it.

  1. Lodestar Fees

When assessing the amount of any attorney’s fee award, courts typically determine what is reasonable through the application of the “lodestar” method with adjustments for what hours and rates are reasonable given the expertise of counsel and difficulty of the matter presented. (Ketchum v. Moses (2001) 24 Cal.4th 1122, 1136; see also Mann v. Quality Old Time Service, Inc. (2006) 139 Cal.App.4th 328, 342 [concerning apportionment of fees for partially successful actions].)

The lodestar method is well known. To determine a reasonable fee award, the court will calculate a base amount is calculated from a compilation of (1) time reasonably spent and (2) the reasonable hourly compensation of each attorney. (Serrano v. Priest (1977) 20 Cal.3d 25, 48; see also Meister v. Regents of University of California (1998) 67 Cal.App.4th 437, 448-449.)

Normally, a “reasonable” hourly rate is the prevailing rate charged by attorneys of similar skill and experience in the relevant community. (PLCM Group, Inc. v. Drexler (2000) 22 Cal.4th 1084, 1095.) That amount may then be adjusted through the consideration of various factors, including “(1) the novelty and difficulty of the questions involved, (2) the skill displayed in presenting them, (3) the extent to which the nature of the litigation precluded other employment by the attorneys, and (4) the contingent nature of the fee award.” (Ketchum, supra, 24 Cal.4th at 1132.) The Court is vested with discretion to determine which claimed hours were reasonably spent, and what an attorney’s reasonable hourly rate is. (Dover Mobile Estates v. Fiber Form Products, Inc. (1990) 220 Cal.App.3d 1494, 1501; see also Flannery v. California Highway Patrol (1987) 61 Cal.App.4th 629, 644. [“We readily acknowledge the discretion of the trial judge to determine the value of professional services rendered in his or her court.”])

First, as to the hourly rate, Respondent contends the hourly rates charged by Petitioner’s counsel are unreasonable. The court previously determined Petitioner’s counsels’ hourly rates in this action were reasonable. The court declines to reconsider the issue today—there is no reason to do so. The court finds the hourly rates charged here are comparable to those rates charged by attorneys of similar experience and skill within the Los Angeles legal community.

As to the time expended, Respondent identifies several entries it finds to be unreasonable and excessive. (Opposition 2:13-4:12 [citing Motion, Ex. 27].)

First, Respondent notes Petitioner requests 9.4 hours (a total fee of $4,599.00) for work incurred related to collection of its fee award and follow-up work related to it fee collection action. In response to the challenge, Petitioner maintains such fees were necessary and does not constitute “double-dipping.”

The court agrees with Respondent. Fees for collection of the fee award have been considered in the related case decided today’s date. (Case No. 19STCP00869.) Petitioner has been fully compensated in that matter for services related to collection of its fee award. Accordingly, the court finds such fees charged here to be duplicative and/or unnecessary (in the context of this action). Accordingly, the court finds 2.4 hours of services to be unreasonable. (2/25/19 1.5 hours and 2/26.19 for .9 hours.)

As to the remaining time entries challenged by Respondent it is unclear they relate to the collection action. Nevertheless, the court finds Petitioner’s numerous somewhat vague entries to “evaluate” “next steps” and “options” (which appear to occupy a significant portion of Petitioner’s time expended) as unreasonable. The tasks performed by such descriptions is insufficient to determine whether the time expended was reasonable. This is especially true give the attorneys’ hourly billing rates and corresponding skill and experience.

Respondent also argues the court should not award fees for the unsuccessful motion for sanctions. The attorneys’ fees claim exceed $6,000. The court does not find a wholesale rejection of an award of such fees is justified given the history of the case and the repeated lack of compliance by the Sheriff’s Department. The court does find some reduction is warranted, however, given its lack of success and the underlying purpose of discovery sanctions.

Respondent also requests the court reduce the fees related to the March 15, 2019 request for a continuance of the OSC. Respondent specifically seeks to reduce the following entries: 3/6/19 for 1.2 hours; 3/6/19 for 1.3 hours; 3/7/19 for 1.9 hours; and 3/8/19 for 1.8 hours for a total reduction of $3,249.

The court agrees the fees appear excessive given the nature of the tasks and the hourly rates of the attorneys involved. Nonetheless, the court is persuaded by Petitioner’s counsel’s response.

Petitioner argues a health issue required the OSC be continued and thus the ex parte was necessary; further, Petitioner notes the preparation of the papers, coordinating with opposing counsel, and appearing at the ex parte hearing took 5 hours total. Under these circumstances, the fees do not appear unreasonable.

Finally, Respondent asks the court to review the fees incurred on this motion. Petitioner incurred $8,838.00 for roughly sixteen hours of work done from September 30, 2019 to October 8, 2019. Further, in reply, Petitioner seeks an additional $2,947 for 5.3 hours incurred for the reviewing the opposition and drafting the reply and another $1,110 for appearing at the hearing. (Vick Reply Decl., ¶¶ 2-3.) In response, Petitioner contends this case was very contentious; Petitioner also argues it attempted to resolve this matter without motion practice.

The court finds a reduction for this motion is warranted. The was no dispute concerning entitlement. The case did not require complex legal analysis or involve a significant number of billing entries that required review. The court finds given the hourly rates of Petitioner’s counsel, the hours expended on this task were excessive.

Based on the court’s review of the billing records and the arguments of counsel, the court calculates the lodestar as follows:

A reasonable blended hourly rate for the attorney’s services in this matter is $555. As such an hourly rate, the court finds the reasonable hours for the services provided to be 56 hours. Accordingly, the court finds Petitioner is entitled to $31,080 as and for a reasonable attorney’s fee award in this matter.

CONCLUSION

For the foregoing reasons, the motion is granted in the amount of $31,080.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

October 30, 2020 ________________________________

Hon. Mitchell Beckloff

Judge of the Superior Court


[1] Petitioner also request costs in the amount of $904.92. Costs, however, are recovered through a memorandum of costs instead of a motion for attorney fees.

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