Private Attorney General Decisions on Subject Found Analogous.
Rickley v. Goodfriend, Case No. B234152 (2d Dist., Div. 7 July 30, 2012) (published) is an interesting decision where a co-plaintiff in pro per attorney, who is a member of the California bar, sued neighbors with her co-plaintiff spouse. Plaintiffs obtained contempt judgments against defendants for an illegal remodeling/foliage encroachment, but the trial court denied fee recovery to the attorney plaintiff (who requested a little over $40,000 in fees) because of the lack of California authority in the area.
Fee denial reversed, based on CCP § 1218 which does allow contempt proceeding fee-shifting in the right circumstances. Here, despite the lack of direct California authority, there certainly were analogous decisions which suggested that vindicating quasi-criminal interests in a proceeding were the equivalent of promoting public interests.
“[W]e do not feel that identical damages, nor joint and indivisible interests between the spouse-attorney and the other spouse defeat the attorney-client relationship,” explained the Court of Appeal. Therefore, if in pro per attorney could establish an attorney-client relationship with her co-plaintiff spouse, fees had to be determined on remand.