United States District Court, S.D. New York
SHELDON G. ADELSON, Plaintiff,
DAVID A. HARRIS, MARC R. STANLEY, and NATIONAL JEWISH DEMOCRATIC COUNCIL, Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
PAUL OETKEN United States District Judge
a defamation action filed by Sheldon G. Adelson arising out
of the 2012 presidential campaign. Adelson brought suit
against David A. Harris, Marc R. Stanley, and the National
Jewish Democratic Council (“NJDC”) (together,
“Defendants”) for libel based on a publication on
NJDC's website in July 2012. This Court dismissed
Adelson's complaint in 2013, and that dismissal was
affirmed by the Second Circuit following a certification of
questions to the Nevada Supreme Court. Presently before the
Court is Defendants' motion for attorney's fees and
2013, this Court dismissed Adelson's complaint under both
Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and
Nevada's anti-strategic litigation against public
participation (“Anti-SLAPP”) statute, Nev. Rev.
Stat. § 41.635-670. The Court also concluded that
Defendants were entitled to reasonable attorney's fees
and costs under Nevada's Anti-SLAPP statute, Nev. Rev.
Stat. § 41.670(1). See Adelson v. Harris, 973
F.Supp.2d 467 (S.D.N.Y. 2013).
appeal, the Second Circuit certified to the Nevada Supreme
Court two unresolved questions of Nevada law―one
involving Nevada common law and one involving the scope of
the Nevada Anti-SLAPP statute. See Adelson v.
Harris, 774 F.3d 803 (2d Cir. 2014). The Nevada Supreme
Court answered both questions in a manner consistent with
this Court's earlier decision. See Adelson v.
Harris, 402 P.3d 665 (Nev. 2017). The Second Circuit
then affirmed this Court's decision dismissing the
complaint. See Adelson v. Harris, 876 F.3d 413 (2d
originally filed a motion for attorney's fees and costs
in October 2013 (Dkt. No. 81), after this Court's
decision dismissing the complaint. Although that motion was
fully briefed, the Court deferred ruling on it in light of
the subsequent appeal to the Second Circuit and certification
to the Nevada Supreme Court (which might have rendered moot
the initial fee request had those courts ruled differently).
Following the Second Circuit's affirmance in 2017,
Defendants filed a supplemental motion for attorney's
fees and costs (Dkt. No. 111), which is fully briefed. The
Court now addresses both fee motions together.
Court assumes familiarity with the factual background, legal
issues, and procedural history of this case, which are set
forth in the above-cited opinions of the Second Circuit, the
Nevada Supreme Court, and this Court.
an action is dismissed pursuant to Nevada's Anti-SLAPP
statute, “[t]he court shall award reasonable costs and
attorney's fees to the person against whom the action was
brought.” Nev. Rev. Stat. § 41.670. Thus, persons
who are sued for communications protected by the statute are
granted “immunity from civil liability” as well
as “mandatory fee shifting.” Adelson,
774 F.3d at 809.
Supreme Court of Nevada has explained:
“[T]he method upon which a reasonable fee is determined
is subject to the discretion of the court, ” which
“is tempered only by reason and fairness.”
Accordingly, in determining the amount of fees to award, the
court is not limited to one specific approach; its analysis
may begin with any method rationally designed to calculate a
reasonable amount, including those based on a
“lodestar” amount or a contingency fee. We
emphasize that, whichever method is chosen as a starting
point, however, the court must continue its analysis by
considering the requested amount in light of the factors
enumerated by this court in Brunzell v. Golden Gate
National Bank, namely, the advocate's professional
qualities, the nature of the litigation, the work performed,
and the result. In this manner, whichever method the court
ultimately uses, the result will prove reasonable as long as
the court provides sufficient reasoning and findings in
support of its ultimate determination.
Shuette v. Beazer Homes Holdings Corp., 124 P.3d
530, 548-49 (Nev. 2005) (footnotes omitted) (quoting
Univ. of Nev. v. Tarkanian, 879 P.2d 1180, 1188,
1186 (Nev. 1994) (citing Brunzell v. Golden Gate
Nat'l Bank, 455 P.2d 31, 33 (Nev. 1969)). As the
court summarized in Shuette, the Brunzell
(1) the qualities of the advocate: his ability, his training,
education, experience, professional standing and skill; (2)
the character of the work to be done: its difficulty, its
intricacy, its importance, time and skill required, the
responsibility imposed and the prominence and character of
the parties where they affect the importance of the
litigation; (3) the work actually performed by the lawyer:
the skill, time and attention given to the work; (4) the
result: whether the attorney was successful and what benefits
Brunzell, 455 P.2d at 33.
parties have briefed Defendants' fee request in two
rounds of filings: first for the district court phase of
litigation (i.e., fees and costs incurred from the
beginning of the case through September 30, 2013); and second
for the appellate phase (i.e., fees and costs
incurred from October 1, 2013, through December 31, 2017).
Each is addressed in turn.
Fees and Costs in the District Court
district court phase of the litigation, Defendants seek $989,
054.50 in attorney's fees and $25, 153.43 in expenses.
(Dkt. No. 82 ¶¶ 18-19.) The requested fee amount is
based on the lodestar method: the number of hours spent
multiplied by the hourly fee. Defendants' law
firm―at the time, Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz,
LLP (“LSKS”)―negotiated reduced hourly
rates with Defendants' insurer, Travelers Indemnity
Company (“Travelers”), agreeing to charge a
blended hourly rate of $465 for attorneys and $200 for
paralegals. It is undisputed that Travelers has in
fact paid the fees sought by Defendants. (Dkt. No. 82 ¶
does not challenge LSKS's hourly rate. That rate is
clearly reasonable―indeed, cheap―in light of
prevailing market rates, the level of quality of counsel, and
the complexity of the legal issues involved. (See