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Wye Oak Technology, Inc. v. Republic of Iraq

United States District Court, District of Columbia

November 21, 2018

WYE OAK TECHNOLOGY, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
REPUBLIC OF IRAQ et al, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Royce C. Lamberth United States District Judge

         The Court previously granted plaintiff Wye Oak's motion to require defendants, Republic of Iraq (Iraq) and the Ministry of Defense of Iraq (MoD), to pay Wye Oak's reasonable attorney's fees associated with Wye Oak's motion for discovery sanctions for Iraq and MoD's failure to produce Rule 30(b)(6) witnesses for deposition. ECF No. 321. Now before the Court is Wye Oak's application detailing attorney's fees expended in opposing Iraq and MoD's untimely motion for a protective order regarding Wye Oak's Rule 30(b)(6) deposition notices [326], Wye Oak's application detailing attorney's fees expended in preparing Wye Oak's motion for sanctions [326], and Iraq and MoD's response to Wye Oak's application for such attorney's fees [332].

         Wye Oak originally stated that the total attorney's fees expended for its opposition to Iraq and MoD's motion for a protective order regarding Wye Oak's Rule 30(b)(6) depositions was $11, 148.5c.[1] Wye Oak filed a reply [334] correcting some of the timekeeper entries originally provided to the Court.[2] The corrected total attorney's fees expended for Wye Oak's opposition filing is $9, 671.[3]

         Wye Oak originally stated that the total attorney's fees expended for Wye Oak's motion for sanctions and accompanying reply was $41, 972.[4] Wye Oak again corrected some of the timekeeper entries originally provided to the Court in a reply filing [334]. The corrected total attorney's fees expended by Wye Oak for its sanctions motion and reply in support of that motion is $41, 592.[5]

         Iraq and MoD oppose these awards as unreasonable on numerous grounds. Iraq and MoD allege that numerous time entries are block:billed, partially redacted, and include vague descriptions, making it difficult to determine whether the entry was actually related to the issue on Which fees were awarded. They also argue that Wye Oak's staffing of the work was unreasonable because Wye Oak did not sufficiently delegate work to more junior attorneys. Further, they contend Wye Oak included fees for work unrelated to the relevant opposition filing or sanctions motion. Finally, Iraq and MoD believe that the fees claimed by Quinn, Racusin & Gazzola are unreasonable because they are duplicative of the work done by Whiteford, Taylor & Preston LLP and because Wye Oak is not obligated to pay attorney's fees to Quinn, Racusin & Gazzola.

         The Court has significant discretion in determining the amount of a fee award. Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 437 (1983). The Court will first analyze the attorney's fees expended for Wye Oak's opposition to Iraq and MoD's motion for protective order regarding Wye Oak's Rule 30(b)(6) depositions. Subsequently, the Court will analyze the total attorney's fees expended for Wye Oak's motion for sanctions and reply in support of this motion.

         I. Attorney's Fees Expended in Preparing Wye Oak's Opposition Filing

         The Court finds that an appropriate sanctions award for Wye Oak's attorney's fees expended in preparing its opposition to Iraq and MoD's motion for a protective order regarding Wye Oak's Rule 30(b)(6) depositions is $6, 592.50. Wye Oak successfully opposed Iraq and MoD's motion for a protective order because Iraq and MoD filed this motion in an untimely manner and therefore waived any objections to the Rule 30(b)(6) depositions. ECF No. 320. Rule 37(d)(3) states that "the court must require the party failing to act, the attorney advising that party, or both to pay the reasonable expenses, including attorney's fees, caused by the failure [to appear for a deposition], unless the failure was substantially justified or other circumstances make an award of expenses unjust." Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(d)(3). Iraq and MoD's failure to produce deposition witnesses pursuant to Rule 30(b)(6) was not substantially justified and requiring them to pay Wye Oak's reasonable attorney's fees is not unjust. Accordingly, the Court will award Wye Oak for the fees expended in having to oppose Iraq and MoD's motion for a protective order.

         Although Wye Oak contends that total attorney's fees expended for Wye Oak's opposition filing was $9, 671, the Court finds that the entry made on March 17, 2018 by Mr. Eric Rowe is unacceptably vague. This entry contained the description: "Revise and edit discovery motions." ECF No. 326-2. This description inadequately documents what Mr. Rowe was working on. The Court cannot assess whether this entry was truly related to Wye Oak's opposition. See In re Meese, 907 F.2d 1192, 1203-04 (D.C. Cir. 1990). The Court is especially unconvinced that this time was spent working on the opposition filing because this entry came several days prior to Mr. Rowe's March 24, 2018 entry describing preparing the relevant opposition. ECF No. 236-2. This leads the Court to think that the March 17 entry was actually not for revising and editing the relevant opposition filing, as this filing had apparently not yet been prepared. Accordingly, the Court will reduce the award to Wye Oak by the amount for the March 17 entry, $3, 078.50.

         The Court does not take any other issue with the fee entries described in preparing Wye Oak's opposition filing. The other entries adequately describe the work performed and enable the Court to determine that the work done was related to the opposition filing. The Court is not troubled by Wye Oak's block billing and redactions for these entries either. Counsel for Wye Oak, C. Allen Foster, filed a declaration in support of Wye Oak's application for attorney's fees stating that he eliminated entries that could be construed as duplicative, reduced the amount of time expended in certain instances, and excluded time spent working on other issues. ECF No. 326-1. Wye Oak has indeed apparently redacted descriptions that are not relevant to the opposition filing and has reduced the time expended for these redacted entries. The remaining descriptions and time ■ expenditures all appear to be related to the relevant filing and to be reasonable fee amounts.

         Further, the Court does not believe that Wye Oak engaged in overstaffing as Iraq and MoD allege. Mr. Rowe, counsel with an hourly rate of $655, expended 7.8 hours (after the Court removes the March 17, 2018 entry), and Mr. Adrian Snead, an associate with an hourly rate of $345, expended 4.3 hours for this opposition filing. The Court is not bothered that Mr. Rowe spent slightly more time on this filing than Mr. Snead even though his hourly rate was higher. Mr. Rowe was the lawyer who prepared this opposition filing. The Court recognizes that senior attorneys draft filings and are not solely responsible for supervising associates' work. This is not a situation in which a senior attorney conducted the vast majority of work on an issue and did not delegate work to a mid-level associate over an extended array of motions, or in which a senior attorney expended a significant amount of time doing administrative work. Thus, the Court does not find Iraq and MoD's arguments persuasive for the fee entries described in preparing Wye Oak's opposition filing besides the entry made on March 17, 2018, which the Court will not allow fees for. Accordingly, the Court will award Wye Oak $6, 592.50 in attorney's fees for its opposition filing.

         II. Attorney's Fees Expended in Preparing Wye Oak's Motion for Sanctions and Reply

          The Court will not award Wye Oak all of its attorney's fees expended for its motion for sanctions and reply in support of this motion because Iraq and MoD largely prevailed on this motion. ECF No. 321. Wye Oak sought to have the Court deem numerous facts as established and to have the Court order Iraq and MoD to pay expenses caused by the failure to appear at the depositions, but only prevailed on the fees portion of its motion. The Court did not deem any facts as established as a result of this motion. Therefore, the Court does not believe it would be appropriate to award Wye Oak all of its attorney's fees for this motion and reply given that Wye Oak did not prevail in the vast majority of what it asked the Court to do. See Copelandv. Marshall, 641 F.2d 880, 891-92 (D.C. Cir. 1980). Nonetheless, Wye Oak still had to file a motion for sanctions to have the Court grant this motion based on Iraq and MoD's failure to produce Rule 30(b)(6) witnesses for deposition. The Court will therefore award Wye Oak a percentage of the attorney's fees expended on these filings.

         Upon analyzing Wye Oak's memorandum of points and authorities in support of its motion for sanctions, the Court has determined that only pages 1 and 10-21 of this 21 page filing[6] are truly relevant to the sanctions at issue. The other pages in this filing detail the background to this case (which has been detailed in numerous filings during this litigation), attack Iraq and MoD's proffered defenses, and criticize Iraq and MoD's alleged failure to adequately participate in discovery. These discussions were unnecessary for the sanctions motion. Accordingly, the Court' will only award Wye Oak the percentage of attorney's fees expended that is commensurate with the percentage of pages in this filing that were actually relevant to the sanctions matter at issue. 13 out of 21 pages in the motion were relevant, which amounts to 61.90%. The Court will therefore award Wye Oak 61.90% of its ...


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