$138,019.51 Was Costs “Hit” In This Case.
Vail Lake USA, LLC v. County of Riverside, Case No. E050835 (4th Dist., Div. 2 Sept. 28, 2011) (unpublished) illustrates how expensive modern litigation can be, and only with respect to selective preparation of an administrative proceeding record in a CEQA case.
There, appellants failed to request a CEQA merits hearing within 5 years, such that the proceeding was dismissed. County then requested $234,856.43 in costs for preparation of the administrative record in the case (yep, just for that item alone), which inspired appellants’ motion to tax costs. It was somewhat successful, but the lower court still awarded County costs of $138,019.51 for administrative record preparation.
Appellants, miffed, appealed. They likely are still miffed after the affirmance by the appellate court.
Plaintiff/petitioner in a CEQA case must file a request that an agency prepare a record of administrative proceedings. (Pub. Resources Code, § 21167.6(a).) However, appellants failed to show that the costs were excessive by County, given that excessiveness of costs is a question of fact for the lower court to adjudge (unfortunately for appellants, adjudged against them). (California Oak Foundation v. Regents of University of California, 188 Cal.App.4th 227, 292-293 (2010).) Appellants also challenged County’s law firm’s charges of $98,210 for preparing the record, but this was rebuffed given that this was only one dollar per page of the 90,000 page record which had to be prepared with expenditure of efforts by counsel. Appellants failed to effectively challenge a County attorney declaration on the reasonableness of this charge.