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Young Men's Christian Association of Honolulu v. Aloha Kai Development, LLC

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

July 30, 2018

YOUNG MEN'S CHRISTIAN ASSOCIATION OF HONOLULU, Petitioner,
v.
ALOHA KAI DEVELOPMENT, LLC, Respondent.

          FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION TO GRANT IN PART AND DEMY IN PART YMCA'5 MOTION FOR ATTORNEYS' FEES AND COSTS [1]

          Richard L. Puglisi, United States Magistrate Judge

         Before the Court is Petitioner YMCA'S Motion for Attorneys' Fees and Costs, filed on June 12, 2018 ("Motion"). ECF No. 16. Respondent filed its Opposition on July 10, 2018. ECF No. 21. Petitioner filed its Reply on July 24, 2018. ECF No. 23. The Court found this matter suitable for disposition without a hearing pursuant to Local Rule 54.3(f). ECF No. 20. After careful consideration of the submissions of the parties and the relevant legal authority, the Court FINDS AND RECOMMENDS that the district court GRANT IN PART AND DENY IN PART Petitioner's Motion.

         BACKGROUND

         Petitioner initiated this action on March 7, 2018, by filing a Motion for Order Confirming Arbitration Award, seeking confirmation of the arbitration award pursuant to Hawaii Revised Statutes Section 658A. See ECF No. 1. On June 5 2018, the district court issued its Order Granting Petitioner's Motion for Order Confirming Arbitration Award and Denying Respondent's Countermotion to Vacate or Correct the arbitration Award. ECF No. 14. In that Order, the district court expressly held that Hawaii Revised Statutes Section 658A governed this action. Id. at 9-11. Judgment was entered in Petitioner's favor on June 5, 2018. ECF No. 15. The present Motion followed.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Entitlement to Attorneys' Fees

         Petitioner requests an award of $16, 749.21 in attorneys' fees and $400 in costs pursuant to Hawaii Revised Statutes Section 658A-25(c). Under Hawaii law, "attorneys' fees cannot be awarded as damages or costs unless so provided by statute, stipulation, or agreement." Stanford Carr Dev. Corp. v. United House, Inc., 305141 P.3d 459, 478 (Haw. 2006) (citation omitted). Section 658A-25(c) provides that a court may award reasonable attorney's fees and expenses to the "prevailing party to a contested judicial proceeding" after the court confirms an arbitration award. Haw. Rev. Stat, § 658A-25(c).

         Here, Petitioner filed a motion to confirm the arbitration award on March 7, 2018, pursuant to Section 65 8A-22. ECF No. 1. Respondent contested the confirmation and filed a countermotion seeking to vacate or correct the arbitration award pursuant to Sections 658A-23 and 658A-24. ECF No. 7. Judgment was entered in favor of Petitioner. See ECF Nos. 14, 15. Because Respondent opposed the confirmation and sought to vacate or correct the award, the Court finds that this action was a contested judicial proceeding as defined by Section 658A-25(c). Further, in light of the fact that judgment was entered in favor of Petitioner, the Court finds that Petitioner is the prevailing party. Although Respondent is correct in noting that an award of attorneys' fees under Section 658A-25 is not mandatory, Respondent provides no basis for the Court to exercise its discretion to deny Petitioner's request for fees. See ECF No. 21 at 4-5; compare Ventress v. Japan Airlines, No. CV 07-00581 SPK-LEK, 2008 WL 763185, at *7 (D. Haw. Mar. 20, 2008), aff'd, 603 F.3d 676 (9th Cir. 2010) (denying an award of fees under Section 658A-25 because the plaintiff was a pro se individual). Accordingly, the Court concludes that Petitioner is entitled to an award of reasonable attorneys' fees and expenses under Section 658A-25.

         II. Calculation of Attorneys' Fees

         Hawaii courts calculate the reasonableness of attorneys' fees based on a method that is nearly identical to the traditional "lodestar" calculation set forth in Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983). See Gurrobat v. HTH Corp., 346 P.3d 197, 207 (Haw. 2015). The Court determines a reasonable fee by multiplying the reasonable hourly rate by the number of hours reasonably expended. Id. The lodestar amount is presumed reasonable; however, the court may adjust the lodestar figure based on an evaluation of several factors. Id. at 207-09.

         Petitioner requests the following attorneys' fees for work performed by its counsel:

ATTORNEY

HOURS

RATE

TOTAL

Paul Alston, Esq .

2.9

$395.00

$1, 145 . 50

Nickolas A. Kacprowski, Esq .

21.6

$375.00

$8, 100 . 00

Wendy F . Hanakahi, Esq .

30

$225.00

$6, 750 . 00

SUBTOTAL

$15, 995 . 50

4 . 712% Hawaii General Excise Tax

$753.71

TOTAL

$16, 749.21

         A. Reasonable Hourly Rate

         Hawaii courts determine the reasonable hourly rate by considering "prevailing market rates in the relevant community." Kaleikini v. Yoshioka, 304 P.3d 252, 2/0 (Haw. 2013). Respondent does not object ...


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