Friday, September 26, 2014
C.A. Rejects Contention That Hours Claimed by Lawyer For Rapper Known as ‘The Game’ Were Inflated
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Court of Appeal for this district yesterday upheld a $19,125 award in attorney fees against a rapper known as “The Game” as a condition of lifting a default judgment against him, spurning his assertion that the number of hours claimed by the lawyer for fellow rapper “40 Glocc”—including one hour for filling out a request to enter default—were unrealistic.
The decision came in an unpublished opinion by Justice Audrey Collins of this district’s Div. Four, who moved over there in July from a seat on the U.S. District Court.
JAYCEON ‘THE GAME’ TAYLOR
At issue was the reasonableness of fees claimed by the plaintiff Lawrence White’s attorney, Steven Soloway. In addition to preparing the request to enter default, he defended against two motions for relief from default.
The first motion claimed that the defendant, Jayceon Taylor, was oblivious to the $4.5 million action against him prior to learning that a default judgment had been entered. He disclaimed knowing the person who allegedly accepted substitute service for him.
However, prior to the entry of default, Taylor had talked to the news media about the action, in which White was suing for assault and battery, in connection with a beating by Taylor, and defamation, arising from the posting on YouTube of a clip from a video of the fray, shot on a cell phone. The motion was denied by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Amy Hogue.
Subsequent Motion Granted
However, Hogue granted the second motion, founded on an affidavit of fault executed by Taylor’s attorney, Lonnie J. Brandon. It was now admitted that Taylor knew of the request for default 13 days before it was entered on default on March 18, 2013, but, according to Brandon’s declaration, an answer was not filed because he was “understaffed and busy with other cases” and supposed that a default had already been entered.
Under Code of Civil Procedure §473(d), a motion for relief must be granted where the attorney attests that his or her “mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or neglect” caused the default, but payment must be ordered of the plaintiff’s attorney fees.
Taylor did not contest the reasonableness of Soloway’s hourly rate of $425. He did argue that the claims of 12 hours devoted to the opposition to the first motion, nine hours spent on the second opposition, as well as an hour to prepare the request to enter the default, were “inflated and extreme.”
Collins disagreed, saying:
“…Taylor focuses only on the length of some of the documents White prepared and his own estimate of how long each task should have taken. But his belief that certain tasks should have taken less time to complete does not provide an appropriate basis upon which to overturn the trial court’s finding that the fees requested were reasonable. Under the circumstances, the court could reasonably have concluded that the number of hours White claimed reflected a legitimate request, given the nature of the proceedings. The trial court was personally aware of Soloway’s work in the case and therefore had the best perspective from which to judge the reasonableness of the amount of attorney fees he requested. Notably, it was Taylor’s own conduct in bringing two different (and arguably contradictory) motions for relief from default that increased the amount of the related fees.”
Taylor also contested the eight hours attributable to work Soloway did on preparing an application. It was not filed because it became moot once Taylor filed his second motion for relief from default.
Collins responded that a fee award is not based on the number of hours expended fruitfully.
“Rather,” she wrote, “the appropriate number of hours to include in a fee award is all time ‘reasonably expended’ in pursuit of the ultimate result achieved.”
The case is White v. Terrell, B252350. Brandon represented White and Soloway argued for Taylor.
“I am pleased, but unsurprised by the Court of Appeal’s affirmance,” Soloway commented.
Brandon could not be reached.
The underlying action is pending. Taylor’s motion for summary judgment is slated to be heard Dec. 3 by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Suzanne G. Bruguera.
Taylor in 2010 agreed to a $30,000 settlement of an action against him by a basketball coach he allegedly assaulted. Brandon represented him in that case.
Copyright 2014, Metropolitan News Company