Published Decision Helps, But Not A Requirement In This Area With Respect To Significant Public Benefit Issue.
“Print shows a scene at the ‘Income Tax Office’ with a crowd clamoring at the door where a notice states ‘One at a Time’; inside, a wealthy man is standing by a desk, on the floor at his feet, in his hat, are papers labeled ‘Personal Property Tax Sworn Off’, ‘Tax on Capital Sworn Off’, and ‘Tax on Investments’, he kisses the Bible while a government official sits at the desk with his right hand raised.” Library of Congress. 1894. Charles Jay Taylor, artist.
In Ventura Office Suites v. California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board (Board), Case No. B269664 (2d Dist., Div. 6 Jan. 17, 2017) (unpublished), Ventura Office Suites (VOS) had to fight to the appellate level to obtain a ruling (albeit unpublished) that it had the right to judicial review of the Board’s employee status determination for unemployment insurance benefit purposes without paying the tax/unemployment insurance contribution (“pay now, litigate later” rule). VOS then filed to recover $201,308,13 in attorney’s fees (inclusive of 1.5 multiplier request), but was eventually awarded $68,526.80. VOS was satisfied, but Board was not—it appealed.
The 2/6 DCA affirmed the fee award. It found that a significant public benefit was conferred by VOS’ fight along the way, even though it was vindicated through an unpublished appellate decision. No binding precedent is necessary under § 1021.5 in order to confer a significant benefit on the general public. With respect to the financial burden element, this was easily met: VOS would have saved only $1,120 per year versus incurring at least ten times the fees if this case was litigated on an hourly basis (presumably this was taken on a pro bono/contingency type of arrangement).