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The Regulatory Fundamentals Group LLC v. Governance Risk Management Compliance, LLC

United States District Court, S.D. New York

September 24, 2014

THE REGULATORY FUNDAMENTALS GROUP LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
GOVERNANCE RISK MANAGEMENT COMPLIANCE, LLC d/b/a MANHATTAN ADVISERS, et al., Defendants.

OPINION & ORDER

KATHERINE B. FORREST, District Judge.

On June 25, 2014, the Court ruled from the bench that defendant Gregory V. Wood had engaged in willful and malicious spoliation by destroying a large number of documents that were highly relevant to this copyright infringement action. (6/25 Tr.[1] 64.) On August 5, 2014, the Court outlined its rationale for awarding plaintiff's motion for sanctions, and further ordered plaintiff to provide a submission detailing attorneys' fees and expenses incurred in litigating the action. (ECF No. 146).

The plaintiff timely filed its submission along with contemporaneous billing records on August 22, 2014. (ECF No. 148). Plaintiff asks for $378, 357.94 in fees and expenses, broken down as $308, 296.26 in fees and $6, 576.32 in expenses for work done by Spears & Imes LLP, and $60, 454.00 in fees and $3, 031.36 in expenses for work done by Fross Zelnick Lehrman & Zissu, P.C. ("Fross Zelnick") (Declaration of David Spears, ECF No. 148 ΒΆΒΆ 11-13 ("Spears Decl.").)

On September 2, 2014, the Court Ordered defendant to provide a response to plaintiffs submission not later than September 11, 2014. (ECF No. 149.) Defendant failed to do so. The Court thus treats plaintiffs submission regarding attorneys' fees and expenses as unopposed.

For the reasons stated below, the Court grants The Regulatory Fundamentals Group LLC fees and expenses in the amount of $366, 099.81.

I. LEGAL STANDARD

A district court has "considerable discretion" in determining what constitutes a reasonable fee award. Arbor Hill Concerned Citizens Neighborhood Ass'n v. Cnty. of Albany , 522 F.3d 182, 190 (2d Cir. 2008). A reasonable fee award should be based on a "reasonable hourly rate, " which is "the rate a paying client would be willing to pay, " as determined based on a holistic assessment of all of the circumstances at issue in the case. Id. at 190. The "presumptively reasonable fee" is the "product of a reasonable hourly rate and the reasonable number of hours required by the case, " and is known as the "lodestar." Millea v. Metro-N. R.R. Co. , 658 F.3d 154, 166 (2d Cir. 2011). The court may adjust the lodestar upward or downward based on its assessment of the specific circumstances at issue in the case. LeBlanc-Sternberg v. Fletcher , 143 F.3d 748, 764 (2d Cir. 1998).

A reasonable hourly rate is one in line with rates "prevailing... in the community for similar services by lawyers of reasonably comparable skill expertise and reputation." McDonald ex rel. Prendergast v. Pension Plan of the NYSA-ILA Pension Trust Fund , 450 F.3d 91, 96 (2d Cir. 2006) (quoting Blum v. Stenson , 465 U.S. 886, 895 n.11 (1984)). The relevant community is "the district in which the reviewing court sits." In re Agent Orange Prod. Liab. Litig. , 818 F.2d 226, 232 (2d Cir. 1987). In determining the reasonable hourly rate, the court may rely on its knowledge of hourly rates at private firms. See Miele v. N.Y. State Teamster Conf. Pension & Ret. Fund , 831 F.2d 407, 409 (2d Cir. 1987).

In recent years, New York district courts have approved rates for experienced law firm partners in the range of $500 to $800 per hour. E.g., Malletier v. Artex Creative Int'l Corp. , 687 F.Supp.2d 347, 360 (S.D.N.Y. 2009) ($540 for partner with 24 years of experience); Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of Am. v. Royal Food Distribs. Ltd. Liab. Co. , 665 F.Supp.2d 434, 437 (S.D.N.Y. 2009) ($735 for partner); Sub-Zero, Inc. v. Sub Zero N.Y. Refrigeration & Appliances Servs., Inc., No. 13-CV-2548, 2014 WL 1303434, at *8-9 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 1, 2014) ($485 for partner with 16 years of experience). New York district courts have also recently approved rates for law firm associates in the range of $200 to $450 per hour. Malletier , 687 F.Supp.2d at 361-62 (noting that associate rates of $390 to $470 "fall at the very top of the spectrum of reasonable hourly rates for associates, " and approving associate rates ranging from $200 to $390.10 as reasonable).

An applicant for an award of attorney's fees generally must submit "contemporaneous time records" that "specify, for each attorney, the date, the hours expended, and the nature of the work done." N.Y. State Ass'n for Retarded Children, Inc. v. Carey , 711 F.2d 1136, 1148 (2d Cir. 1983). District courts have "some limited discretion to make exceptions to the hard-and-fast rule." Scott v. City of New York , 626 F.3d 130, 133 (2d Cir. 2010). When a court makes such an exception, "it should not award the full amount requested." F. H. Krear & Co. v. Nineteen Named Trustees , 810 F.2d 1250, 1265 (2d Cir. 1987).

An award of attorney's fees for preparing and litigating the fee application itself is inappropriate if the applicant spends an "inordinate amount of time" preparing the fee application due to "their failure to keep better records." Carey , 711 F.2d at 1148.

Expenses incurred in the course of litigation should also be itemized so that the reviewing court can determine whether each cost was in fact necessary to the success of the litigation. See U.S. for Use & Benefit of Evergreen Pipeline Const. Co., Inc. v. Merritt Meridian Const. Corp. , 95 F.3d 153, 173 (2d Cir. 1996) (refusing to grant the request for photocopying costs because the requesting party had not itemized the cost).

II. ...


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