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DirecTV, Inc. v. Clark

July 27, 2007

DIRECTV, INC., A CALIFORNIA CORPORATION, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JIM CLARK, JOSEPH D'ANDREA, AND ANTHONY DUDLEY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Simandle, District Judge

HONORABLE JEROME B. SIMANDLE

OPINION

This matter comes before the Court upon plaintiff, DirecTV, Inc.'s application for attorneys' fees and costs against defendant Joseph D'Andrea. DirecTV's application for attorneys' fees and costs follows a four-day bench trial in which the Court found in favor of DirecTV and against D'Andrea in the amount of $10,000 as a result of D'Andrea's willful and continuous violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2511(1)(a) and 47 U.S.C. § 605(a). DirecTV's application seeks $87,628.90 in attorneys' fees and costs. D'Andrea opposes on the ground that the attorney's fees sought are eight and one-half times greater than the judgment recovered. For the reasons discussed herein, the Court will award DirecTV $87,628.90 in attorneys' fees and costs.

I. BACKGROUND

DirecTV, Inc. ("DirecTV") is a California-based company in the business of distributing satellite television broadcasts. (Compl. at ¶ 1.) Programming is electronically scrambled by DirecTV and transmitted from satellites to DirecTV subscribers. (Id. at ¶ 2.) The subscribers receive the signals through the use of DirecTV hardware, including a small satellite dish, an integrated receiver, a DirecTV access card, and cabling. (Id.) The DirecTV access card unscrambles the signals for those programs paid for by the subscriber. (Id.) A number of companies have engaged in the internet sale of illegal equipment designed to modify or circumvent DirecTV's signal-scrambling technology, including devices known as "unloopers." On May 23, 2003, DirecTV filed a Complaint against D'Andrea, alleging the purchase of such a device from a company called Canadian Security and Technology and bringing claims under the Federal Communications Act of 1934, as amended, 47 U.S.C. § 605 ("Communications Act"), and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, 18 U.S.C. §§ 2510-2521 ("Electronic Communications Privacy Act"). [Docket Item No. 1]

Between September of 2003 and the bench trial in this matter in March of 2006, the parties conducted discovery and D'Andrea filed numerous motions including (1) a motion for a more definite statement [Docket Item No. 17], (2) a motion to drop or sever all claims [Docket Item No. 15], (3) a motion to dismiss [Docket Item No. 23], and (4) a motion in limine to preclude certain records [Docket Item No. 65.] D'Andrea also filed a nine-count counterclaim. [Docket Item No. 48]. In each instance, counsel for DirecTV prepared and filed oppositions papers and made numerous court appearances. With respect to the nine counterclaims, DirecTV prepared a motion to dismiss as well as a motion for sanctions under Fed. R. Civ. P. 11 which was sent to counsel for D'Andrea. All of D'Andrea's motions were denied and the Court granted DirecTV's motion to dismiss all of D'Andrea's counterclaims. [Docket Item Nos. 31, 34, 42, 76.]

Approximately one month before trial, DirecTV filed a motion in limine seeking to preclude the testimony of D'Andrea's wife, Patricia D'Andrea, because Mrs. D'Andrea failed to complete her deposition and give responsive answers to questions posed by DirecTV's counsel. [Docket Item No. 80] The Court heard oral argument on the motion on March 6, 2006 at which point the Court denied the motion to preclude her testimony but ordered Mrs. D'Andrea to appear for her deposition and answer all non-privileged questions. [Docket Item No. 85.]

Beginning on March 13, 2006 and concluding on March 17, 2006, this Court held a four-day non-jury trial. DirecTV called numerous witnesses including experts in DirecTV's operations and in electronic signal piracy technology. At the conclusion of the trial, the Court found in favor of DirecTV and against D'Andrea on every claim. The Court awarded DirecTV the amount of $10,000 as a result of D'Andrea's willful and continuous violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2511(1)(a) and 47 U.S.C. § 605(a). The Court also awarded DirecTV attorneys' fees and costs pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 2520(b)(3) and 47 U.S.C. § 605(e)(3)(B)(iii). Noting D'Andrea's "unrepentant" nature and his "fabricated . . . defense," the Court expressed the appropriateness of the assessment of damages because D'Andrea's conduct "was intentional, it was continuing, it was precisely the sort of conduct that the act is designed to prevent." (Trial Tr. at 63-64.)

Following the trial, DirecTV filed an application for attorneys' fees and costs seeking $86,120.00 in attorneys' fees and $1,508.90 costs. [Docket Item No. 96.] Counsel for D'Andrea filed opposition to which DirecTV replied. [Docket Item Nos. 97, 98.] The Court has considered all of the submissions without oral argument.

II. DISCUSSION

The award of attorneys' fees and costs in this case is authorized under both the Communications Act and the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. Specifically, under the Communications Act, "[t]he court --- . . . shall direct the recovery of full costs, including awarding reasonable attorneys' fees to an aggrieved party who prevails." 47 U.S.C. 605(e)(3)(B)(iii); see also Primetime 24 Joint Venture v. Telecable Nacional, No. 90-1941, 1990 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 20034, *11 (D.N.J. Oct. 10, 1990)(holding that § 605(e)(3)(B)(iii) "makes mandatory the recovery of the prevailing aggrieved party's full costs, including reasonable attorney's fees.") Under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act the appropriate relief includes "a reasonable attorney's fee and other litigation costs reasonably incurred." 18 U.S.C. § 2520(b)(3). Under Local Civil Rule 54.2(a), a prevailing party that has been awarded counsel fees shall file with the Court "an affidavit within 30 days of the entry of judgment or order" and must set forth the nature, dates, and a description of the services rendered, the time spent in rendering the services and the normal billing rate of each of the persons who performed the work. L. Civ. R. 54.2(a)(1)-(5).

The starting point for this Court's determination of reasonable attorney's fee is calculation of the "lodestar" amount which is "the number of hours reasonably expended multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate." Penn. Env't Defense Found. v. Canon-McMill, 152 F.3d 228, 231 (3d Cir. 1998)(citing Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983)); see also Blakey v. Continental Airlines, Inc., 2 F. Supp. 2d 598 (D.N.J. 1998). In applying the lodestar formula, it is imperative for a district court to "carefully and critically evaluate the hours and the hourly rate set forth by counsel." Blakey, 2 F. Supp.2d at 602. Once the lodestar is calculated, the district court is permitted to adjust fees depending on the success of the party seeking fees. Penn. Env't Defense Found., 152 F.3d at 232 (citing Hensley, 461 U.S. at 433.) Specifically, the district court may adjust the amount, which is "primarily based on the degree of success that the plaintiff obtained." Material Techs. Inc. v. Carpenter Tech. Corp., No. 01-2965, 2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 28893, *11-12 (D.N.J. Sept. 16, 2004). An excellent result would yield full compensation for attorneys fees.

A. Calculation of the Lodestar

As mentioned above, the lodestar is calculated by (1) determining the reasonable hourly rate of counsel and (2) multiplying that rate by the ...


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