FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
SOHO, Bruce Coons
Attorney Susan Brandt-Hawley
SOHO Wins in the Court of Appeal on Plaza de Panama II
SAN DIEGO, CA - April 27, 2017 -
SOHO today received a ruling in its favor from the Fourth Appellate District Court of Appeal in San Diego. In a published decision authored by Presiding Justice Judith McConnell, the unanimous Court UPHELD the decision of Judge Timothy Taylor of the San Diego Superior Court. Judge Taylor DENIED a request by Irwin Jacob's Plaza de Panama Committee for payment of its attorneys fees for a prior case relating to Balboa Park's proposed Centennial Bridge. Read HERE. The Committee won an appeal overturning the San Diego Superior Court's decision that the Plaza de Panama Project violated the city's Municipal Code, and then sought attorneys fees against the non-profit SOHO of almost a hundred thousand dollars.
Today's precedent-setting opinion upholding Judge Taylor's ruling confirms that "private attorney general" fees under Code of Civil Procedure section 1021.5 may not be awarded against environmental groups that bring lawsuits in the public interest. The Court explained that "SOHO is not the type of party against whom the court may impose such an award because SOHO did nothing to compromise public rights."
SOHO along with many San Diegans is now focused on the current Plaza de Panama lawsuit, filed at the end of 2016, but today's ruling is significant for environmental petitioners statewide.
SOHO's attorney Susan Brandt-Hawley explained that "This published decision, in SOHO's name, clarifies that developers and public agencies cannot recover attorneys fees against a public-interest environmental petitioner." Executive Director Bruce Coons said "We put our faith in the courts to enforce environmental laws, and could not do so if our good faith actions might result in liability for developers' attorneys fees. We had always understood this to be the law and are very grateful for the Court's confirmation of the meaning of this private attorney general fee statute."