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Parsi v. Daioleslam

United States District Court, District of Columbia

April 8, 2013

TRITA PARSI and NATIONAL IRANIAN AMERICAN COUNCIL, Plaintiffs,
v.
SEID HASSAN DAIOLESLAM, Defendant

Page 45

For KENNETH R. TIMMERMAN, Non-Party Petitioner: Scott F. Craig, LEAD ATTORNEY, LAW OFFICE OF SCOTT F. CRAIG, Beverly Hills, CA.

For TRITA PARSI, Plaintiff: Afshin Pishevar, LEAD ATTORNEY, PISHEVAR & ASSOCIATES, PC, Rockville, MD; Farrokh Mohammadi, Jeffrey Handelsman, LEAD ATTORNEYS, PRO HAC VICE, PISHEVAR & ASSOCIATES, P.C., Rockville, MD.

For NATIONAL IRANIAN AMERICAN COUNCIL, Plaintiff: Afshin Pishevar, LEAD ATTORNEY, PISHEVAR & ASSOCIATES, PC, Rockville, MD; Farrokh Mohammadi, Jeffrey Handelsman, LEAD ATTORNEYS, PRO HAC VICE, PISHEVAR & ASSOCIATES, P.C., Rockville, MD.

For DAIOLESLAM SEID HASSAN, also known as HASSAN DIAOLESLAM, Defendant: Harold L. Rogers, Peter G. Jensen, Thomas Edward Ross, LEAD ATTORNEYS, SIDLEY AUSTIN LLP, Washington, DC; Scott F. Craig, LEAD ATTORNEY, LAW OFFICE OF SCOTT F. CRAIG, Beverly Hills, CA; Timothy E. Kapshandy, PRO HAC VICE, SIDLEY AUSTIN LLP, Chicago, IL.

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MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

JOHN D. BATES, United States District Judge.

Before the Court is [194] defendant Seid Hassan Daioleslam's final bill of recoverable costs. Pursuant to [190] the Court's September 13, 2012 Memorandum Opinion and Order granting in part and denying in part defendant's omnibus motion for sanctions, defendant seeks reimbursement for the following: (1) 60% of the expenses of bringing [143] defendant's omnibus sanctions motion; (2) the last two rounds of forensic imaging by PricewaterhouseCoopers (" PwC" ); (3) the expenses of bringing [112] defendant's motions to compel production of plaintiff National Iranian American Council's [" NIAC" ] server, Salesforce data, and membership lists; (4) one half of the expenses of Babak Talebi's deposition; (5) the expenses of obtaining [93] the Court's March 29, 2011 Order relating to Talebi's emails; (6) the expenses of serving subpoenas to obtain third-party emails; (7) one half of the expenses of the last half day of plaintiff Trita Parsi's deposition; and (8) one half of the expenses of the second day of Emily Blout's deposition. Defendant also seeks additional costs as the prevailing party under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(d). He claims $284,223.34 in total, plus prejudgment and postjudgment interest. See Def.'s Reply in Supp. of Bill of Costs [ECF 199] (" Def.'s Reply" ) 9. Plaintiffs NIAC and Parsi argue that defendant's

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bill of costs should be denied or substantially reduced. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will award fees and expenses in the reduced amount of $183,480.09. [1]

A district court has broad discretion in determining the size of a sanctions award. See Beck v. Test Masters Educ. Servs., Inc., No. 04-1391, 289 F.R.D. 374, 2013 WL 772879, at *7 (D.D.C. Mar. 1, 2013); Tequila Centinela, S.A. de C.V. v. Bacardi & Co., 248 F.R.D. 64, 68 (D.D.C. 2008). The party requesting fees and expenses has the burden of proving that its request is reasonable. See Beck, 2013 WL 772879, at *7; see also Am. Petroleum Inst. v. EPA, 72 F.3d 907, 912, 315 U.S. App. D.C. 268 (D.C. Cir. 1996). If the party opposing the fee request raises specific objections, the Court has discretion to adjust the fee award in light of those objections. See Tequila Centinela, 248 F.R.D. at 68.

The Court will consider the reasonableness of each component of defendant's bill of costs.

A. Sanctions Motion

Defendant claims $33,279.91 in fees and expenses for bringing the sanctions motion. See Def.'s Final Bill of Recoverable Costs [ECF 194] (" Def.'s Bill of Costs" ) 1. [2] Plaintiffs argue that defendant's request has several defects, the first being that the time spent on the sanctions motion by senior partner Timothy Kapshandy is unreasonable. See Pls.' Objections to Def.'s Bill of Costs [ECF 198] (" Pls.' Objections" ) 9. Kapshandy claimed 39.3 hours on the motion, compared to a combined 35 hours claimed by two more junior attorneys on the motion. See Def.'s Bill of Costs, Ex. A. Plaintiffs argue that, rather than draft substantial portions of the motion himself, Kapshandy should have delegated the drafting to junior attorneys and spent most if not all of his time reviewing and editing the drafts. They ask the Court to reduce Kapshandy's hours using the formula set forth in Mitchell v. National Railroad Passenger Corp., 217 F.R.D. 53, 60 (D.D.C. 2003).

The Court declines to do so based on the specific circumstances of this case. It is not unreasonable that just over one half of the attorney hours spent on the sanctions motion -- an omnibus motion based on eight separate areas of discovery -- were spent by a senior partner. Kapshandy was the lead attorney on the case throughout the more-than-two-year discovery period preceding the sanctions motion, and it likely was more efficient (and cheaper) for Kapshandy to take a larger role in drafting that motion, which was based on facts of which he had firsthand knowledge, than he might otherwise have taken. See Am. Petroleum Inst., 72 F.3d at 916 (making " no adjustment for the allocation of time between partners and associates" ); Mitchell, 217 F.R.D. at 58 (" [I]nexperienced lawyers, although they bill at a lower rate, may burn up many hours doing tasks that their seniors could have accomplished more efficiently and cheaply." ).

Nevertheless, it remains defendant's burden to show the reasonableness

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of each element of his fee request. See New Jersey v. EPA, 703 F.3d 110, 115, 403 U.S. App. D.C. 203 (D.C. Cir. 2012) (per curiam). Although the 74.3 hours claimed for attorney work on a motion and reply totaling 69 pages do not appear grossly excessive, 74 hours is still a significant amount of time. Yet Kapshandy's billing entries -- which consist almost exclusively of descriptions like " Review and revise motion for sanctions," " Draft and revise sanctions motion," and " Reply to sanctions motion" -- make it hard to tell whether the nearly 40 hours claimed for drafting, reviewing, and revising were reasonably expended. [3] See New Jersey, 703 F.3d at 115-16 (finding many similar entries, such as " [c]ontinue drafting/revising of mercury brief" and " [d]raft reply brief," inadequate to justify hours claimed); Role Models Am., Inc. v. Brownlee, 353 F.3d 962, 970, 359 U.S. App. D.C. 237 (D.C. Cir. 2004) (" Supporting documentation must be of sufficient detail and probative value to enable the court to determine with a high degree of certainty that such hours were actually and reasonably expended." (internal quotation marks and alteration omitted)); Def.'s Bill of Costs, Ex. A. The Court therefore finds that a modest, 10% reduction to Kapshandy's hours is appropriate, but it will not make the drastic reduction (to 7.3 hours) requested by plaintiffs. See Beck, 2013 WL 772879, at *10 (reducing hours by 10% where descriptions " le[ft] some remaining question about the reasonableness of the hours spent" ); DL v. District of Columbia, 256 F.R.D. 239, 246 (D.D.C. 2009) (applying 10% reduction for " vague time entries" ); Pls.' Objections 10.

Plaintiffs next challenge the amount requested for non-attorney work on the sanctions motion. Defendant seeks compensation for 25.05 hours spent by legal assistant Meredith Dudley and 166.6 hours spent by legal assistant Jeffery Tisak. See Def.'s Bill of Costs, Ex. A. Tisak's time entries all say one of two things: " Review NIAC documents for sanctions motion as per T. Kapshandy," or, on and after October 3, 2011, " Review NIAC documents for upcoming sanctions motion response as per T. Kapshandy." See id. No explanation is given as to why Tisak needed to spend the equivalent of more than four 40-hour weeks reviewing documents related to the sanctions motion and reply. Tisak's repetitive, generic entries are entirely inadequate, as they provide no basis for the Court to determine the reasonableness of the hours expended. See New Jersey, 703 F.3d at 115 (stating that " such entries are 'inadequate to meet a fee applicant's heavy obligation to present well-documented claims'" (quoting Role Models, 353 F.3d at 971)); Conservation Force v. Salazar, No. 10-1057, 916 F.Supp.2d 15, 2013 WL 66210, at *11 (D.D.C. Jan. 7, 2013). Tisak's entries are inadequate not just in relation to the sanctions motion; they are inadequate for essentially all of his time shown on defendant's bill of costs. See Def.'s Bill of Costs, Exs. C, D, E, G, H (showing repetitive entries like " Review NIAC documents for Motion to Compel Server as per T. Kapshandy" and " Review NIAC documents as per T. Kapshandy" ). Although the Court does not doubt that Tisak spent time reviewing documents and doing other work on this case, defendant has not provided sufficiently detailed documentation for the Court to determine that Tisak's many hours " were actually and reasonably expended." See Role Models,

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353 F.3d at 970 (emphasis added) (internal quotation marks omitted). Accordingly, the Court will apply an across-the-board reduction of 50% to all hours claimed for Tisak's work. Compare New Jersey, 703 F.3d at 115-16 (applying 75% reduction to " patently excessive" fee request).

Dudley's entries, which also lack specificity, are marginally better than Tisak's. Dudley's entries vary at least somewhat and show that she " [p]repare[d] exhibits," " [o]rganize[d] sets of documents," and " prepar[ed] reference materials," all in relation to defendant's sanctions motion. See Def.'s Bill of Costs, Ex. A. In addition, the 25 hours claimed by Dudley seem inherently more reasonable than the 160-plus hours claimed by ...


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