Search This Blog

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Larrategui v Laborde, 2014 WL 2154477 (E.D.Cal.) [Argentina] [Fees and Costs] [Not clearly inappropriate]

In Larrategui v Laborde, 2014 WL 2154477 (E.D.Cal.) the Court granted Petitioner's petition for the return of S.C. to Argentina pursuant to the Hague Convention.  Petitioner sought $55,372.14 in attorney's fees and costs pursuant to Article 26 of the Hague Convention and 42 U.S.C.§ 11607 of ICARA.

The District Court observed that were a court has ordered the return of the child to her habitual residence, the court must order the respondent-abductor to pay "necessary expenses incurred by or on behalf of the petitioner," unless it would be "clearly inappropriate." 42 U.S.C. §11607(b)(3). The award of fees and costs serves two purposes: (1) "to restore the applicant to the financial position he or she would have been in had there been no removal or retention" and (2) "to deter such removal or retention."Hague International Child Abduction Convention: Text and Legal Analysis, 51 Fed.Reg. 10494-01, 10511 (Mar. 26, 1986).

 Respondent argued that fees were clearly inappropriate because the 
Court's intervention was required to obtain undertakings to protect S.C.; that Respondent was unable to pay for Petitioner's attorney's fees and costs, and
Petitioner did not spend his own funds to retain representation in this matter. 

The Court rejected these arguments. The fact that Petitioner did not spend his own funds does not provide a basis to deny an award to Petitioner. See  Cuellar v. Joyce, 603 F.3d 1142, 1143 (9th Cir.2010) (holding that denying a fee award because petitioner's counsel provided their services pro bono would "encourage abducting parents to engage in improper delaying tactics whenever the petitioning parent is represented by pro bono counsel.")  Second, Respondent made a good faith, but unsuccessful, "grave risk" argument that S.C. had not received, and consequently would not receive, proper medical treatment in Argentina. As a result, the Court granted Petitioner's Petition for Return of Child with narrowly focused undertakings to ensure that S.C. received the necessary medical treatments and ensures that Respondent is allowed access to and visitation with S.C. However, denying an award to Petitioner because the Court issued undertakings would encourage parties to always request undertakings even if the request is meritless in order to avoid paying fees and costs. Finally, entirely denying an award to Petitioner because of Respondent's financial status would not further § 11607(b)(3)'s purposes.  Kufner v. Kufner, CIV.A. 07-046 S, 2010 WL 431762, at *5 (D.R.I. Feb.3, 2010) ("To deny any award to Petitioner [because of respondent's financial status] would undermine the dual
statutory purposes of Section 11607(b)(3)-restitution and deterrence (both general
as to the public and specific as to the Respondent))."  The Court held that it was not "clearly inappropriate" to award attorney's fees and costs to Petitioner.

The Court found that traveling costs are necessary costs because Petitioner's attorney was required to attend the hearings and that file management costs are appropriate as part of the costs associated with litigation. However, the Court denied the costs associated with the uncertified interpreter because Respondent should not be required to pay for Petitioner's error.  The Court also denied the fees recorded in Spanish in the invoices because they were not appropriately documented in English.  The Court denied the costs for a custody order because it was not necessary for this proceeding. The Court awarded all other costs. It reduced the costs and fees by $3,437.50 to $51,934.64.

   The Respondent requested a 30% reduction based on her financial status. The district court noted that although denying an award because of Respondent's financial status would not further §11607(b)(3)'s purposes, courts have recognized that they have discretion to reduce any potential award to allow for the financial condition of the respondent. See, e.g.,  Rydder v. Rydder, 49 F.3d 369, 373-74 (8th Cir.1995) (reducing award from $18,487.42 to $10,000.00 because of respondent's financial status);  Berendsen v. Nichols, 938 F.Supp. 737, 739 (D.Kan.1996) (applying 15% reduction to the fee award because of respondent's financial status);  Salinier v. Moore, No. 10-CV00080-WYD, 2010 WL 3515699, at *4 (D.Colo. Sept.1, 2010) (reducing award by 25% because of respondent's financial condition). Respondent  provided evidence that she was self-employed with limited income, nominal assets, and significant debt. Therefore, the Court exercised its discretion and reduced the total award by 25%. The Court awarded Petitioner $38,950.98 in attorney's fees and costs.

No comments:

Post a Comment