Here is an interesting one in which no fees were requested, but a trial court used, and appellate court countenanced, use of a fee-shifting statute in making a merits determination of whether a governmental administrative agency’s decision was arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable in nature.
In Graber v. County of San Bernardino, Case No. E054233 (4th Dist., Div. 2 Nov. 28, 2012) (unpublished), a trust sued the County for a refund of property tax payments, arguing that the County Assessment Appeals Board acted arbitrarily in not granting trust an exclusion from a property tax assessment. The trial court found the Board’s decision was not unreasonable, using principles in case law under Government Code section 800--a fee-shifting provision allowing capped fees to be assessed against the government for arbitrary and capricious actions under certain circumstances.
The appellate court sustained the trial court’s reliance on section 800 on the merits of the “arbitrary and capricious” determination even though no fees were sought by anyone--section 800 was found analogous in the context of this matter.