Class Counsel Appealed, But To No Avail Except On Two Minor Issues.
Woosley v. State of California, Case No. B261454 (2d Dist., Div. 5 April 24, 2017) (unpublished) was a dispute which spanned close to 40 years, with the parties then hassling over attorney’s fees over the last dozen years. (Kinda echoes our Mission Statement-- "All too often attorney fees become the tail that wags the dog in litigation." Deane Gardenhome Assn. v. Dentkas, 13 Cal.App.4th 1394, 1399 (1993).) What first happened was that a prior judge awarded $23 million to class counsel under the private attorney general statute (just about the full request and with multipliers for most work), a determination which was reversed and remanded to reconsider in light of lack of success on claims after a California Supreme Court decision reduced the underlying judgment. A new judge actually held a live evidentiary hearing, awarding a total of a little over $2,516,000 to class counsel, reducing the lodestar for inefficiency and excessive internal/external communications by counsel, only awarding a 1.25 multiplier due to lack of success for work on some claims, and refusing to award a “delay premium.”
On appeal, the 2/5 DCA found no abuse of discretion, except the majority justices remanded for two minor reconsiderations: (1) failing to allow some attorneys to reopen to present detailed billing statements not allowed by the prior judge; and (2) considering fees on fees for an older 1985 fee application by one set of attorneys. In doing so, the appellate court rejected the notion that the trial judge had to identify each time entry which he or she found objectionable. In a dissenting and concurring opinion, Presiding Justice Turner would have affirmed across the board, finding that it was not an abuse of discretion to deny the motion to reopen. Although unpublished, the case has good discussions on lodestar reductions, application of multiplier reductions, and discretionary “delay premium” analysis.