First District, Division 4 Disagrees with Ninth Circuit’s Hubbard Decisions.
In our July 3, 2008 and January 12, 2009 posts, we discussed the Ninth Circuit’s Hubbard decisions (Hubbard v. SoBreck, LLC, 531 F.2d 983 (9th Cir. 2008) and Hubbard v. SoBreck, LLC, 554 F.3d 742 (9th Cir. 2009)), which held that a mandatory award of fees to a prevailing under the California Disabled Persons Act (Civil Code § 55) was preempted by the American with Disabilities Act of 1990 (42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq.) because Civil Code section 55 allowed a defense fee award without the ADA’s showing that plaintiff’s action was “frivolous, unreasonable, or groundless.”
Now, a California intermediate decision—Jankey v. Lee, Case No. A123006 (1st Dist., Div. 4 Feb. 5, 2010) (certified for partial publication)—has expressly disagreed with Hubbard II’s preemption finding, concluding that attorney’s fees are awardable to a prevailing defendant under section 55 without the more elevated ADA entitlement showing.
In reaching this result, the state appellate court primarily found that (1) nothing in the ADA imposed uniform standards for complementary state law remedies (slip opn., p. 10), and (2) the California Legislature’s imposition of a two-way guaranteed fee provision in section 55 makes sense in light of the fact that the CDPA affords plaintiffs greater rights than the ADA (CDPA allows both monetary and injunctive relief, while ADA provides for only injunctive relief) (slip opn., p. 12.)
That said and done, the $118,458 (out of a requested $129,264) fee award was affirmed. In an unpublished part of the decision, plaintiff challenged the reasonableness of the award. However, his challenges did not persuade the appellate court. Contrary to his argument, detailed billing records are not required to affirm a fee award, with attorney testimony on the number of hours expended being sufficient in the right circumstances. (Martino v. Denevi, 182 Cal.App.3d 553, 559 (1986).) Attorneys’ claimed hourly rates—with the lead attorney asking for $165—as well as distribution of work (lead attorney worked 76% of the claimed time)—were found reasonable given the low sought-after hourly rate for the San Francisco legal community and the relative complexity of the case.
President and Mrs. Coolidge with their military aides, greeting two veterans in wheelchairs.