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Carter v. Caleb Brett LLC

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

February 3, 2014

Rick O. Carter, Petitioner-Appellant,
v.
Caleb Brett LLC; Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, Respondents-Appellees.

Submitted January 15, 2014 [*] San Francisco, California

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California Richard Seeborg, District Judge, Presiding D.C. No. 3:11-cv-01472-RS.

Eric Aaron Dupree, Dupree Law APLC, Coronado, California; Joshua Thomas Gillelan, II, Longshore Claimants' National Law Center, Washington D.C., for Petitioner–Appellant.

John R. Walker, Kelley Kronenberg, Houston, Texas, for Respondents–Appellees.

Before: Arthur L. Alarcón, Richard C. Tallman, and Sandra S. Ikuta, Circuit Judges.

SUMMARY [**]

Attorneys' Fees

The panel vacated the district court's order awarding attorneys' fees and costs, and remanded for the district court to articulate the basis for its fee determination with greater specificity.

The panel held that the district court erred as a matter of law by reducing the fee award without sufficiently explaining its rationale for the reduction.

OPINION

ALARCÓN, Senior Circuit Judge

Rick Carter appeals from the district court's order awarding him $14, 268.50 in attorneys' fees and costs on his fee petition in the amount of $22, 585. We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291. Carter contends that the district court erred as a matter of law by reducing the fee award without sufficiently explaining its rationale for the reduction. We agree. Accordingly, we vacate and remand this matter to the district court with instruction to articulate the basis for its fee determination with greater specificity.

I

"[T]he district court has discretion in determining the amount of a fee award." Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 437 (1983). But "[i]t remains important . . . for the district court to provide a concise but clear explanation of its reasons for the fee award." Id. at 437, 438–39 (holding that the court was "unable to affirm the [fee award] . . . because the District Court's opinion did not properly consider the relationship between the extent of success and the amount of the fee award" or "answer the question of what is 'reasonable' in light of that level of success"). When determining a reasonable fee award under a federal fee-shifting statute such as the Longshore Act, a district court must first calculate the lodestar by multiplying the "number of hours reasonably expended . . . by [the] reasonable hourly rate." Van Skike v. Dir., Office of Workers' Comp. Programs, 557 F.3d 1041, 1046 (9th Cir. 2009) (citing Tahara v. Matson Terminals, Inc., 511 F.3d 950, 955 (9th Cir. 2007)).

"This Circuit requires that courts reach attorneys' fee decisions by considering some or all of twelve relevant criteria set forth in Kerr v. Screen Extras Guild, Inc., 526 F.2d 67 (9th Cir. 1975)." Quesada ...


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