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Golden v. Nadler

February 1, 2008

BRUCE P. GOLDEN ET AL, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
NADLER, PRITIKIN & MIRABELLI, LLC ET AL. DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Joan B. Gottschall

Magistrate Judge Arlander Keys

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

On July 23, 2007, this court filed an order (the "July 23rd order") adopting in part and rejecting in part the magistrate judge's report and recommendation on defendants' Nadler, Pritikin & Mirabelli, LLC, James Pritikin, and Matthew Arnoux's (collectively "NPM"), Helen Sigman & Associates, and Helen Sigman's (collectively "Sigman"), and Nancy Frank-Thomas' ("Thomas") separate motions seeking sanctions pursuant to Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The court also directed the defendants to submit detailed documentation concerning their attorneys' fees and expenses related to those counts upon which they had prevailed. After the defendants submitted the documentation, plaintiffs Bruce P. Golden et al. (collectively "Golden") submitted memoranda in opposition to the plaintiffs' submission; the defendants subsequently filed briefs in reply. Although the court did not order a full briefing by the parties of this issue in its July 23rd order, it has carefully examined the submitted briefs and documentation (including billing statements) and, for the reasons set forth below, grants attorneys' fees and expenses to NPM in the sum of $1737.29; to Sigman in the sum of $16,060.23, and to Thomas in the sum of $10,856.

I. BACKGROUND

This case arises as a consequence of a petition for divorce brought by Golden's estranged wife, Judy Rosenbaum ("Rosenbaum"), in the Circuit Court of Cook County. All of the defendants in the instant case were involved, one way or another, with those divorce proceedings. Golden filed a fourteen-count complaint in this court against the defendants, alleging: copyright infringement against NPM and defendants Wendy G. Bowes ("Bowes) and Osvaldo Rodriguez ("Rodriguez") (Count I); civil RICO violations against NPM and Sigman (Count II); violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (2006) against NPM, Sigman, and Thomas (Count III), and assorted state law tort claims against NPM, Sigman, and Thomas (Counts IV-XIV). On November 1, 2005, the court ruled on motions to dismiss filed by NPM, Sigman, and Thomas. Golden v. Nadler, Pritikin & Mirabelli, LLC, No. 05 C 0283, 2005 WL 2897397, at *1 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 1, 2005). The court first abstained and stayed judgment with respect to Count I pending resolution of the underlying state divorce proceedings. Id. at *2. The court then dismissed Counts II and III and refused to exercise pendent jurisdiction over the remaining state law claims (Counts IV-XIV). Id. at *3, **8-11.

Following the court's order, NPM, Sigman, and Thomas filed separate motions to recover attorneys' fees and expenses pursuant to Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. In its July 23rd order, the court reviewed the report and recommendation of Magistrate Judge Keys concerning defendants' Rule 11 motions. The court adopted Magistrate Judge Keys' recommendation that Golden was liable to NPM for attorneys' fees and expenses associated with Count II, but declined to accept his recommendation that Golden pay for attorneys' fees and expenses associated with Counts III and IV. With respect to Sigman's motion, the court adopted Magistrate Judge Keys' recommendation that Sigman be awarded attorneys' fees and expenses associated with Count II and Counts IV through XIV (but not Count III). Finally, with respect to Thomas' motion, the court adopted the recommendation of the magistrate judge that Golden be ordered to pay for Thomas' attorneys' fees and expenses associated with Counts X and XII (but not those associated with Counts VII and XIV). The court then ordered each of the defendants to submit such documentation as would permit the court to determine the attorneys' fees and expenses attributable to each claim.

II. ANALYSIS

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11(b) requires that an attorney or unrepresented party, presenting to the court pleadings, motions, or other papers to the court, certifies that:

(1)it is not being presented for any improper purpose, such as to harass, cause unnecessary delay, or needlessly increase the cost of litigation;

(2)the claims, defenses, and other legal contentions are warranted by existing law or by a non-frivolous argument for extending, modifying, or reversing existing law or for establishing new law;

(3)the factual contentions have evidentiary support or, if specifically so identified, will likely have evidentiary support after a reasonable opportunity for further investigation or discovery; and

(4)the denials of factual contentions are warranted on the evidence or, if specifically so identified, are reasonably based on belief or a lack of information.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(b)(1-4). Moreover, if, after notice and a reasonable opportunity to respond, the court determines that Rule 11(b) has been violated, the court may impose an appropriate sanction. Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(c)(1). A motion for such a sanction may be made in the form of a separate motion by the parties (as in the instant case), or on the court's own initiative, and may comprise part or all of the reasonable attorneys' fees and other expenses directly resulting from the violation. Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(c)(2); 11(c)(3); 11 (c)(4). Any such sanction imposed under Rule 11 must be limited to what suffices to deter repetition of the conduct or comparable conduct by others similarly situated. Fed. R. Civ. P. 11(c)(4).*fn1

The method by which attorneys' fees and other expenses are best calculated by the court is outlined by the U.S. Supreme Court in Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433-34 (1983). The most useful starting point for determining the amount of a reasonable fee is the number of hours reasonably expended on the litigation multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate. Hensley, 461 U.S. at 433. The party seeking an award of fees should submit evidence supporting the hours worked and rates claimed. Id. Where the documentation of hours is inadequate, the district court may reduce the award accordingly. Id. Moreover, "billing judgment" is an important component of such calculations: counsel for a prevailing party ...


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