Voluntary Reduction By County Was Due To Retirement Of Certain Employees, Not Change In Methodology By Which Fees Calculated Such That Plaintiff Was Not Successful For 1021.5 Purposes.
California Public Records Research, Inc. v. County of Yolo, Case No. C078158 (3d Dist. Oct. 14, 2016) (published) involved a plaintiff’s challenge to the fees charged by the Yolo County Recorder’s Office. Eventually, the County did reduce fees voluntarily after the litigation based on certain senior staff members retiring, although the methodology for calculation of fees was not changed by the mandamus petition at all, which was denied on the merits through a summary judgment proceeding. Plaintiff then moved to recover $450,000 in attorney’s fees under the private attorney general statute on a “catalyst” theory (based on the voluntary County reduction in fees), but the lower court denied the request.
Plaintiff lost both merits and fee denial challenges on appeal.
As far as the fee denial, the appellate court reasoned that plaintiff was not successful in achieving its primary litigation objective through a change to the method in which County calculated recordation fees. Although it did voluntarily reduce fees when certain staff members retired, the litigation resulted in no change in the way in which it calculated fees. The fee denial was correct.