Ruling May Have Implications On Substantiation Submitted In Support Of Fee Petitions In California.
In County of Los Angeles Board of Supervisors v. Superior Court (ACLU), Case No. B257230 (2d Dist., Div. 3 Apr. 13, 2015) (published), the ACLU sought law firm billing records (mainly invoices) sent by counsel to Los Angeles County in several excessive force jail inmate cases. The trial court determined the billing records were not privileged so as to be exempt from the disclosure, but the appellate court disagreed by issuing a writ to the contrary. It held that the records were attorney-client privileged and exempt from disclosure under the Government Code section 6254(k) exemption.
At the end of the opinion, the appellate court dealt with the argument that the application of the privilege to billing records would “wreak havoc” on the procedures for submitting substantiation in support of a fee request. The 2/3 DCA panel disagreed, because (1) detailed billing timesheets are not mandatory in seeking fees at the state court level, and (2) the attorney seeking fees on behalf of a client could obtain a waiver of the privilege by the client so that the substantiation can be submitted.
BLOG OBSERVATION AND HAT TIP—Actually, this may have a more interesting impact on fee petition submissions in California federal court, given our experience that district judges demand more detailed submissions (usually preferring to see timesheets with daily entries). A “hat tip” to Carter White of UC Davis School of Law’s Civil Rights Clinic for bringing the case to our attention.