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Yonemoto v. Dep't of Veterans Affairs, No. 12-16662, 12-16793, 2013 WL 6344894 (9th Cir. December 6, 2013) (Tashima, C. J., Fletcher, C. J., Berzon, C. J.)

Date: 
Friday, December 6, 2013
Re: Plaintiff's motion for attorney's fees resulting from litigation concerning plaintiff's request for certain defendant e-mails Disposition: Affirming the district court's grant of attorney's fees to plaintiff
  • Attorney's Fees:  The court affirms the decision of the district court.  The court finds that "[t]he district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that 'Plaintiff's action has resulted in a public benefit by shedding light on [defendant's] treatment of its personnel, forcing [defendant] to comply with [the FOIA], and uncovering other emails bearing on problems with the agency's operations.'"  The court also concludes that "[n]or was it an abuse of discretion to conclude that [plaintiff's] 'personal and commercial interest' in the materials sought is 'outweighed by the public benefit of the action and [defendant's] failure to disclose the disputed documents earlier.'"  However, the court also finds that "[t]he district court may . . . have abused its discretion in assessing another factor supporting [plaintiff's] entitlement to attorneys' fees: whether [defendant's] 'withholding of the records sought had a reasonable basis in law.'"  The court explains that "[a]lthough the Court does not find that [defendant] acted in bad faith, ... [defendant's] initial refusal to disclose the 157 emails to [plaintiff] was not entirely reasonable."  However, the court finds that "[o]n balance . . . the overall reasonableness of the government's litigation behavior, supports [plaintiff's] entitlement to attorneys' fees."  The court also finds that "[t]he district court did not abuse its discretion in reducing [plaintiff's] fee award to reflect his limited success" and that "[i]t was not an abuse of discretion for the district court to conclude that [plaintiff'] 'is not entitled to fees with respect to the documents produced in response to the EEOC discovery process.'"
Topic: 
Attorney Fees
Court of Appeals
Updated August 6, 2014