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Judge Slashes Attorney Fee Request for Unnecessary Delays

May 7, 2019 | Posted in : Fee Award, Fee Award Factors, Fee Reduction / Fee Denial, Fee Request, Hourly Rates / Hourly Billing, Lawyering

A recent Law 360 story by Carolina Bolado, “Fla. Judge Slashes Atty Fee Request For Unnecessary Delays,” reports that a Florida federal judge slashed in half a request for over $130,000 in attorney fees, finding that a defendant's attorneys needlessly delayed ending litigation after they learned that their client had been wrongly sued by porn producer Malibu Media LLC for copyright infringement.  U.S. District Judge James S. Moody Jr. said defendant Roberto Roldan was entitled to some attorney fees and awarded him $69,084 after he was incorrectly named as a defendant in the case, which accused him of downloading copyrighted videos.

But the fees award was just over half of the $130,651 that Roldan’s attorneys had requested because the judge found that the number of hours they worked on the case was unreasonable.  Judge Moody determined that Roldan’s counsel collected information from their client and his friends, including affidavits making clear that he wasn’t a proper defendant in the case, but continued to litigate the lawsuit instead of revealing the information and ending the litigation against their client.

And when Malibu Media expressed concern to Roldan’s attorneys that he may not be a proper defendant in the lawsuit and asked to depose him, they objected and instead filed a motion for summary judgment a few days later, according to the order.  “None of these actions, among others discussed, demonstrate a good faith effort to resolve the case on the merits,” Judge Moody said.

The judge stood by a prior conclusion that Malibu Media bears some responsibility for failing to investigate simple facts about Roldan that would have ruled him out as a defendant.  But it was Roldan’s counsel that caused delays, he said.  “Ultimately, much of the work done in this case was unnecessary, and costly,” Judge Moody said.

Frequent litigant Malibu Media filed its copyright suit, one of many against users of file-sharing service BitTorrent, in November 2013.  The porn producer alleges the defendants downloaded at least 40 of its copyrighted videos.  Malibu Media asked for sanctions against Roldan’s attorneys, claiming they withheld key information, namely that Roldan, the person suspected of infringement, wasn’t home when it happened and that his father was.  The porn producer said the attorneys did it to drive up the company’s litigation costs in chasing the wrong target and said they filed a frivolous 281-page motion to dismiss.

In his order, Judge Moody declined to sanction Roldan’s attorneys, pointing out that he had already made an “across-the-board cut” in the attorney fees award and that further reduction was unnecessary.