Trial Judge Reduced Requests Substantially Due to Severely Redacted Billing Records and General Supporting Attorney Declaration; Further Reductions Not Justified.
Three defendants (as well as their law firms) sought mandatory fee awards after SLAPPing plaintiff’s malicious prosecution action in Du Boise v Peterson, Case Nos. B237764/B240357 (2d Dist., Div. 5 Dec. 6, 2013) (unpublished).
The respective defendants made these fee requests: $34,467.62; $26,099.53; $99,262.50, with plaintiff taking the position that only $10,000 should be awarded to each. The trial court’s tentative, which became the final fee order, ordered these amounts: $10,800; $25,000; $25,000.
Plaintiff challenged the fee awards, arguing they should have been reduced even further. This did not go very far, based on the abuse of discretion standard--which is a very deferential review standard. Plaintiff’s opposition was lengthy and misapplied the law, causing supplemental briefing such that the actual awards were not abusive at all.
BLOG PRACTICE TIP--Two reasons caused the lower court to reduce the fee requests: (1) inadequate billing records due to severe redactions; and (2) an attorney declaration about what was done in the case, which happened to be way too general in nature. Our practice tips will not be surprising, but are these: (1) don’t submit severely redacted records (it is okay to redact some privileged information, but be prudent); and (2) although attorney declarations of work efforts will suffice in California state courts, make sure there are some particulars and details given to the judge about the work which was done so as to support a lodestar finding more in your favor! (We actually suggest that detailed billings be included in the fee submissions, but they are not required under state case law. See our category “Substantiation of Reasonableness of Fees” for more posts on redacted billings and the general fee substantiation requirements.)