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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Court of Appeal Holds that Court May Award Supplemental Attorney Fees After Successful Appeal

In Center for Biological Diversity v. County of San Bernardino (Hawarden Development Company) (September 17, 2010), the Court held that the entry of final judgment, including an award of attorney fees, does not necessarily preclude an award of supplemental fees when the plaintiff prevails in an appeal from that judgment.
Center for Biological Diversity, Inc., San Diego Audubon Society, Save our Forest Association, and Sierra Club, plaintiffs in a CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act; Pub. Resources Code, § 21000 et seq.) action, appeal an order on attorney fees that was rendered on remand after an earlier appeal on the merits. The trial court originally awarded plaintiffs a reduced amount of fees under Code of Civil Procedure section 1021.5, the private attorney general statute, based on their limited success at trial; they lost on two CEQA claims and won on one non-CEQA claim. On remand, plaintiffs moved for fees incurred on the appeal, and for supplemental fees incurred at the trial court level based on their greater success on appeal on the CEQA claims. The court determined it lacked jurisdiction to hear the supplemental fees matter because plaintiffs had dismissed their appeal of the postjudgment order on fees and the order was final. Plaintiffs persuasively contend the court's jurisdictional finding was in error. A motion for supplemental fees based on greater success on appeal does not challenge the original fee order and poses no jurisdictional impediment. Thus, we remand for consideration of supplemental fees.
Slip op. at 1. The opinion is available here.

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