No Important Right Or Significant Benefit Vindicated.
Not all political “victories” give rise to private attorney general fee recovery under CCP § 1021.5, as the next case illustrates.
In Willard v. Kelley (Woolery), Case No. G050340 (4th Dist., Div. 3 June 29, 2015) (unpublished), one political opponent (Willard) challenged a portion of his opponent Woolery’s candidate designation as “Orange County Treasurer/CPA” as being inaccurate because it was not his principal occupation. The trial court denied the petition, directed against the Orange County Registrar of Voters, based on the ground that Woolery’s stated occupation satisfied Election Code requirements. Woolery then requested an award of $8,320 in attorney’s fees under the private attorney general statute, a request denied by the trial court.
That determination was upheld on appeal, in an opinion authored by Justice Fybel.
The primary reason for affirmance was that factual accuracies relating to one candidate’s personal history, versus a battle over one’s views as a candidate, did not transcend beyond a candidate’s personal interests so as to confer a significant benefit to the electorate. (Hammond v. Agran, 99 Cal.App.4th 115, 121 (2002).) Fee recovery was properly denied in this one.