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Cheeks v. General Dynamics Corporation

United States District Court, D. Arizona

October 28, 2014

Loretta Cheeks, Plaintiff,
v.
General Dynamics Corporation, General Dynamics C4 Systems, Inc., Defendants.

ORDER

JAMES A. TEILBORG, District Judge.

Pending before the Court are Defendant General Dynamics C4 Systems' ("GDC4S") Motion for Attorneys' Fees (Doc. 110) and Plaintiff Loretta Cheeks' (Ms. "Cheeks") Motion to Strike Defendant's Motion for Attorney's Fees (Doc. 113). Both Motions are fully briefed including a Response by Ms. Cheeks to the Motion for Attorneys' Fees, a Reply by GDC4S to that Response, and a Response by GDC4S to the Motion to Strike. The Court now rules on these Motions.

I. MOTION TO STRIKE (Doc. 113)

The Court first considers Ms. Cheeks' Motion to Strike because, if granted, it would preclude consideration of GDC4S' Motion for Attorneys' Fees. Previously, the Court entered an order granting summary judgment in favor of GDC4S on its Counterclaim for Breach of Contract. (Doc. 105). In the Order, the Court authorized GDC4S to file a Motion for Attorneys' Fees if the parties were unable to agree on a reasonable amount of attorneys' fees and costs. ( Id. ). Later, GDC4S filed a Motion for Attorneys' Fees, including an Affidavit of Defendant's counsel and an Itemization of Attorneys' Fees. (Docs. 110-1 and 110-2). In her Response, Ms. Cheeks recognized that GDC4S did not include a complete copy of the written fee agreement in its Motion for Attorneys' Fees. (Doc. 111 at 10). With its Reply, Defendant's counsel included a copy of its retention agreement with its client GDC4S. (Doc. 112-1). The retention agreement included a cover page, an hourly rates section which demonstrated the hourly rate charged by Defendant's counsel, a blended rate section dealing with issues of employment litigation, and a final signature page of the agreement. (Doc. 112-1). Ms. Cheeks moves to strike GDC4S' Motion for Attorneys' Fees. (Doc. 113).

A. Legal Standard

Local Rule of Civil Procedure ("Local Rule") 7.2 governs the filings of motions to strike, and provides that "a motion to strike may be filed only if it is authorized by statute or rule... or if it seeks to strike any part of a filing or submission on the ground that it is prohibited (or not authorized) by a statute, rule, or court order." LRCiv 7.2(m)(1).

B. Analysis

Ms. Cheeks moves to strike GDC4S' Motion for Attorneys' Fees (Doc. 110) and Reply (Doc. 112) under LRCiv 7.2(m)(1). Ms. Cheeks argues that GDC4S' Motion for Attorneys' Fees was not authorized by a statute, rule, or court order. (Doc. 113 at 1). Particularly, Ms. Cheeks claims that the Court should strike the Motion based on GDC4S' lack of compliance with Local Rule 54.2(d)(2). Local Rule 54.2(d)(2) provides, that "[a] complete copy of any written fee agreement, or a full recitation of any oral fee agreement, must be attached to the supporting memorandum. If no fee agreement exists, then counsel must attach a statement to that effect." LRCiv 54.2(d)(2). Ms. Cheeks objects that GDC4S failed to provide a complete copy of its written fee agreement to its Motion for Attorneys' Fees and produced a redacted version in its Reply.

In response, GDC4S argues that Ms. Cheeks Motion to Strike is inappropriate because it has failed to establish that the Motion for Attorneys' Fees "is prohibited (or not authorized) by a statute, rule, or court order" as required under Local Rule 7.2(m). Furthermore, GDC4S' contends that its alleged lack of compliance does not mean that the Motion for Attorneys' Fees is prohibited or not authorized.

In this case, the Court's summary judgment order allowed GDC4S to file a request for fees pursuant to Local Rule 54.2. (Doc. 105 at 37). Thus, the Motion for Attorneys' Fees was not "prohibited (or not authorized) by a statute, rule, or court order." LRCiv 7.2(m). Because the motion for attorneys' fees was directly authorized by a court order, a Local Rule 7.2(m) motion to strike does not apply. Whether the Motion for Attorneys' Fees and the Reply comply with Local Rule 54.2 is a separate issue to be considered at the Court's discretion when determining reasonable attorneys' fees.

Accordingly, the Court denies Ms. Cheeks' Motion to Strike (Doc. 113) and, now considers GDC4S' Motion for Attorneys' Fees (Doc. 110).

II. MOTION FOR ATTORNEYS' FEES (Doc. 110)

GDC4S moves for an award in the amount of $24, 720.00 in its Motion for Attorneys' Fees. (Doc. 110 at 10). Ms. Cheeks, in her Response, argues that GDC4S' Motion for Attorneys' Fees should be denied in its entirety, Ms. Cheeks should be declared the successful party, and Ms. Cheeks should be awarded her costs and attorneys' fees. (Doc. 111 at 11). In its Reply, GDC4S suggests that Ms. Cheeks made no meaningful challenge to its requested award, that GDC4S is entitled to reasonable attorneys' fees, and that GDC4S should be awarded the $24, 720.00 requested for its attorneys' fees. (Doc. 11 at 11).

A. Appropriateness of Awarding Attorneys' Fees

1. Legal Standard

a. Local Rule of Civil Procedure 54.2

Ms. Cheeks contests GDC4S' Motion for Attorneys' Fees (Doc. 110). She claims Local Rule 54.2 does not apply to this case and, alternatively, that GDC4S failed to comply with Local Rule 54.2.

Local Rule 54.2 provides the procedural mechanism for moving for attorneys' fees. See LRCiv 54.2(b)-(e). This rule sets forth the required content of the memorandum in support of the motion (including a discussion of the reasonableness of the requested award), the necessary supporting documentation (including a task-based itemized statement of fees and expenses), and the format and description requirements of the itemized statement. Id.

Pure Wafer, Inc. v. City of Prescott, No. CV-13-08236-PCT-JAT, 2014 WL 3797850 (D. Ariz. July 29, 2014).

b. A.R.S. § 12-341.01(A)

GDC4S moves for attorneys' fee pursuant to A.R.S. § 12-341.01(A) and the confidentiality agreement between GDC4S and Ms. Cheeks. Pursuant to A.R.S. § 12-341.01(A), "[i]n any contested action arising out of a contract, express or implied, the court may award the successful party reasonable attorney fees." A.R.S. § 12-341.01(A). For purposes of awarding attorneys' fees, "a contested action is one in which the defendant has appeared and generally defends against the claims and demands made by the plaintiff." Morrison v. Shanwick Int'l Corp., 804 P.2d 768, 775 (Ariz.Ct.App. 1990). If the Court does find a party to be the "successful party" for purposes of the statute, the Court then exercises its broad discretion in awarding reasonable attorneys' fees. See Assoc. Indem. Corp. v. Warner, 694 P.2d 1181, 1184 (Ariz. 1985) (en banc). In exercising its discretion the Court considers, among other factors:

1. the merits of the claim or defense presented by the unsuccessful party;

2. whether the litigation could have been avoided or settled and the successful party's efforts were completely ...


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