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Shales v. General Chauffeurs

August 6, 2007

JAMES D. SHALES, JOHN PAVLAK, AND TAMARA L. SMITH, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
GENERAL CHAUFFEURS, SALESDRIVERS AND HELPERS LOCAL UNION NO. 330, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: George W. Lindberg Senior U.S. District Judge

Judge George W. Lindberg

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

On March 26, 2007, this court granted in part and denied in part defendants' joint motion for sanctions pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11 and 28 U.S.C. § 1927. The court imposed sanctions against plaintiffs' counsel, James Gordon Banks, for: (1) pursuing plaintiffs' civil conspiracy and RICO claims after discovery closed; (2) filing and pursuing Smith's intentional infliction of emotional distress claim; and (3) filing an affidavit that unreasonably multiplied the sanctions proceedings. Defendants General Chauffeurs, Salesdrivers & Helpers Local Union No. 330, Romanazzi, Campus, Barkei, Hickey, McCaslin, Olszewski, and Hollingsworth (collectively "the Local 330 defendants") filed a joint petition for entry of a judgment award of attorneys' fees and costs, seeking $197,731.34. Defendants Hoffa and Moore filed two petitions for attorneys' fees, seeking a total of $31,167.39.

The court has broad discretion to set a sanctions award that serves the deterrent purpose of Rule 11. Divane v. Krull Elec. Co., 319 F.3d 307, 314 (7th Cir. 2003). Where a court awards attorneys' fees as a sanction under Rule 11, "it has an obligation to award only those fees which directly resulted from the sanctionable conduct." Id. The court determines the amount of attorneys' fees to award by calculating the lodestar amount (the number of hours reasonably expended, multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate), then reducing or increasing that amount as appropriate, given the circumstances of the case. See Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 430 n.3, 433 (1983). The court need not perform a line-by-line review of a fee petition. See Divane, 319 F.3d at 317. The party seeking the fee award bears the burden of showing the reasonableness of the fees it seeks. See Hensley, 461 U.S. at 433; Spegon v. Catholic Bishop of Chicago, 175 F.3d 544, 550 (7th Cir. 1999).

Banks devotes much of his response to defendants' petitions to rearguing this court's decision to impose sanctions on him. The time for raising these objections has passed, and the court declines to reconsider its decision.

The court turns to Banks' arguments that do address the fee petitions. Banks argues in a general fashion that the time records defendants have submitted in support of their fee petitions fail to adequately separate the time claimed for work done relating to the sanctioned conduct from work done on the rest of the case. Banks objects to no specific time entries.

In this case, the civil conspiracy, RICO, and intentional infliction of emotional distress claims on which sanctions were imposed are interrelated with claims on which sanctions were not imposed, making it a difficult task to pinpoint what time was spent on what claims. Given this inter-relatedness and the broad nature of Banks' objection, the court will not deny defendants' petitions on this basis. See Divane, 319 F.3d at 317. However, the court will reduce the claimed fees to the extent that they were incurred doing work on claims on which sanctions were not imposed.

The court starts with defendants' claims for fees incurred defending against plaintiffs' civil conspiracy and RICO claims after the close of discovery. Discovery closed on November 30, 2005. Since the court entered summary judgment on these claims in defendants' favor on March 24, 2006, the last fees and costs relating to these claims were incurred by defendants on February 22, 2006, when the individual union defendants filed their reply briefs in support of their summary judgment motions, and Local 330 filed a motion to strike.

Gary Witlen, in-house counsel for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, acted as lead counsel for defendants Moore and Hoffa. Witlen claims to have spent a total of 61.25 hours working on this case between December 1, 2005 and February 22, 2006. Because Witlen did not distinguish in his time records between time spent working on the civil conspiracy and RICO claims, and the other claims brought against Moore and Hoffa, he suggests reducing the total time he spent in proportion to the portion of the briefs devoted to claims other than the civil conspiracy and RICO claims.*fn1 These reductions would result in a total of 47.95 hours. Witlen does not have an established billing rate, but calculated his initial fee estimate in the sanctions motion by using a rate of $320.00 per hour, which was the rate approved in an award to Shales' counsel in an earlier case brought by Shales against the Teamsters. Banks does not object to the reasonableness of this rate. The court finds that Witlen has appropriately reduced his time to reflect only time spent on the sanctioned claims, and awards him $15,344.00 for work done on the civil conspiracy and RICO claims.

Attorneys with the firm Asher, Gittler, Greenfield & D'Alba, Ltd. ("the Asher firm") acted as local counsel for Moore and Hoffa. These attorneys claim to have spent 22 hours working on this case between December 1, 2005 and February 22, 2006, at a rate of $195.00 per hour, for a total of $4,290.00. Banks does not object to the reasonableness of this rate.

The Asher firm's attorneys state that they are unable to separate the work they performed on the civil conspiracy and RICO claims from the work performed on the other claims plaintiffs brought against Moore and Hoffa. Using Witlen's calculation method as a starting point, the court reduces half of the Asher firm's claimed fees by half, to reflect the amount of time spent on sanctioned claims in Moore's opening brief argument. The court reduces the remaining half of the claimed fees by 1/15, to reflect the amount of time spent on sanctioned claims in Hoffa's opening brief argument. After these reductions, the total fees awarded to the Asher firm relating to work done on the RICO and civil conspiracy claims after the close of discovery are $3,074.50.

The Local 330 defendants were represented by attorneys with the firms Ekl Williams PLLC and Arnold & Kadjan. Attorney Patrick Provenzale, of the firm Ekl Williams, claims to have spent 98 hours working on the RICO, civil conspiracy, and intentional infliction of emotional distress claims between December 1, 2005, and February 22, 2006, at a rate of $175.00 per hour.*fn2 Attorney John Toomey, of the firm Arnold & Kadjan, claims to have spent 202.75 hours working on this case between December 1, 2005 and February 22, 2006, at a rate of $185.00 per hour.*fn3 Banks does not object to the reasonableness of these rates. The amount for Provenzale's time totals $17,150.00, and the amount for Toomey's time totals $37,508.75.

None of the Local 330 defendants' attorneys have separated the work they performed on the civil conspiracy and RICO claims from work performed on plaintiffs' other claims. Since defendants' work on these claims following the close of discovery related largely, if not wholly, to briefing their summary judgment motions, the court will reduce the claimed amounts in proportion to the portion of these parties' briefs that discussed claims other than the civil conspiracy and RICO claims. Ekl Williams devoted three of the eight pages of argument in the individual union defendants' opening brief to claims other than the civil conspiracy and RICO claims; the court reduces their claimed amount by 3/8, and awards that firm $10,718.75. Arnold & Kadjan devoted ten of the thirteen pages of argument in Local 330's opening brief to claims other than the civil conspiracy and RICO claims; the court reduces Arnold & Kadjan's claimed amount by 10/13, and awards that firm $8,655.87.

The court finds that none of the defendants has adequately shown their costs incurred specifically in defending against the civil conspiracy and RICO claims after the close of discovery. ...


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