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Hernandez v. Brewer

United States District Court, D. Arizona

November 15, 2018

Cristobal Hernandez, Jr., Plaintiff,
v.
Janice K Brewer, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          JAMES A. TEILTRARG SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pending before the Court is the Pinal County Defendants' (“Defendants”) Motion for Attorneys' Fees (Doc. 264). Defendants filed the pending Motion for Attorneys' Fees (Doc. 264), in accordance with this Court's Order (Doc. 257) granting Defendants' earlier Motion for Sanctions (Doc. 244). Plaintiff Cristobal Hernandez, Jr. (“Plaintiff”) filed a Response to Defendants' Motion for Attorneys' Fees (Doc. 265), to which Defendants filed a Reply (Doc. 266).

         Plaintiff also filed an improper Sur-reply (Doc. 267) in direct violation of this Court's previous Order (Doc. 257). The Order (Doc. 257) made clear that “Plaintiff may respond-once, in accordance with District of Arizona Local Rule Civil 7.2” to Defendants' application for attorneys' fees. (Doc. 257 at 12). Plaintiff violated the Order (Doc. 257) by filing the Sur-reply (Doc. 267) after filing his one, authorized Response (Doc. 265).[1] Accordingly, the Court strikes Plaintiff's improper Sur-reply (Doc. 267).

         The Court previously discussed the factual and procedural background of this case at length, and need not repeat it here. (See Doc. 222). The Court now rules on the motion.

         I. LEGAL STANDARD

         Rule 11 justifies sanctions “when a filing is frivolous, legally unreasonable, or without factual foundation, or is brought for an improper purpose.” Estate of Blue v. County of L.A., 120 F.3d 982, 985 (9th Cir. 1997). A “frivolous” filing is one that is “both baseless and made without a reasonable and competent inquiry.” Townsend v. Holman Consulting Corp., 929 F.2d 1359, 1362 (9th Cir. 1990).

         Once a court authorizes sanctions in accordance with Rule 11, the prevailing party must submit an application for attorneys' fees. LRCiv 54.2. The authorizing court must examine the content of this application and determine, among other things, whether the requested fees are reasonable. Id. Under Rule 11, the sanctions awarded “should never exceed those expenses and fees that were reasonably necessary to resist the offending action.” In re Yagman, 796 F.2d 1165, 1185 (9th Cir. 1986). In general, reasonable attorneys' fees incurred in litigating an action should be calculated according to the “lodestar” method. Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983). This figure is determined by multiplying “the number of hours reasonably expended on the litigation multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate.” Id. The application for fees should include evidence supporting the number of hours worked and the rates requested for the work. Id. at 434. In determining the number of hours reasonably expended, the court has discretion to exclude hours which are “excessive, redundant, or otherwise unnecessary.” Id.

         II. MOTION FOR ATTORNEY'S FEES

         This Court authorized sanctions pursuant to Rule 11 after determining that Plaintiff was responsible for “frivolous, legally unreasonable filings” and declaring Plaintiff a vexatious litigant. (Doc. 257 at 6, 11). The Court now analyzes whether the fees requested by Defendants are reasonable, in light of the offending actions.

         A. Number of Hours

         Defendants do not seek fees associated with all of Plaintiff's frivolous filings, but instead only request fees for responding to filings which “clearly warranted a response, ” in addition to Defendant's Vexatious Litigant Motion (Doc. 245) and the associated Motion for Sanctions (Doc. 244). (Doc. 264 at 4). Counsel for Defendants did not respond to a number of Plaintiff's additional frivolous filings, instead “trust[ing] the Court would conclude on its own that the remaining filings were meritless.” (Id.)

         Defendants seek compensation for a total of 14.1 hours of billed time for associate Jennifer B. Anderson, and a total of 0.3 hours of billed time for partner Georgia A. Staton. (Id. at 17). As avowed by Defendants, Ms. Staton's hours were related to reviewing this Court's Order (Doc. 257) granting attorneys' fees and declaring Plaintiff a vexatious litigant. (Id. at 19). Ms. Anderson's hours were spent reviewing, analyzing, and responding to Plaintiff's filings. (Id. at 17-19). The relevant filings include, among others: Doc. 223 (“Request Order to Remove Judge Teilborg, and Move Proceedings to Tucson, AZ”); Doc. 224 (“Submission of Evidence Document in 220”); Doc. 225 (“Rule 60(b)(2)(6) Motion”); Doc. 230 (“Leave to File Reply” and “Reply to 226, 227, 228, and 229”); Doc. 231 (“Request for Leave to File Declaration: Theft of Personal Property, Criminal Misconduct”); and Doc. 231-1 “Declaration: Theft of Personal Property, Criminal Misconduct by State Prosecutors”). (Doc. 264 at 14, 17-19). This Court ruled that these-and many other-filings by Plaintiff were frivolous and duplicative. (Doc. 257, n.4-7).

         Plaintiff, in his Response (Doc. 265), does not specifically contest or otherwise oppose any of the hours submitted by Defendants. (See generally Doc. 265). Moreover, Plaintiff does not argue that any hours submitted in Defendants' fee application are excessive or duplicative. (Id.). Accordingly, the Court finds that the number of hours submitted by Defendants is reasonable in light of the numerosity and complexity of issues to which Defendants were forced to respond. The Court also observes that Defendants efficiently allocated their time by responding only to filings by Plaintiff which warranted a response, and did not unreasonably inflate hours in responding to unmeritorious claims. The Court finds that the hours submitted by Defendants are in no way excessive, redundant, or unnecessary.

         Accordingly, the Court will award fees for 0.3 hours of Ms. Staton's time, and ...


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