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Quote of the Day - I always turn to the sports pages first, which records people's accomplishments. The front page has nothing but man's failures. - Chief Justice Earl Warren
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The Catalyst Rule, a.k.a. $100 Grand a Page

England has the Rule. Loser pays.

Not so here. The American Rule is that each party bears its own fees unless there's an agreement to the contrary or a statute.

The California Supreme Court, however, may be on the road to changing both rules. In two sweeping rulings, the Court ruled that if a lawyer causes a change, the lawyer may be entitled to recover fees.

Even though the lawyer may not have won any judicial rulings.

What?

I don't make this stuff up, I just report it.

Here they are, in all their glory: Graham v. Daimler Chrysler and Tipton-Wittingham v. City of Los Angeles.

Call this rule the "Catalyst Rule," first enunciated in 1983 (but in a case that actually reversed an attorneys fees award). You know, like moving money from here to there. Another name for it is the private attorney general rule.

The United States Supreme Court squarely rejected this theory in the Buckhannon decision. But that case only applied to federal statutes, not state statutes.

In Tipton-Wittingham, plaintiffs' actions resulted in changes in the LAPD's treatment of its officers' race and sex. The changes were made voluntarily by LAPD, not because of any court order. Plaintiffs recovered over $2,000,000 in fees as a result of the "catalyst" theory. In Graham, the defendants offered to repurchase the truck that was the subject of the lawsuit before the court rendered judgment.

The dissent, which lost 4-3 in Graham, the lead case, notes that the Plaintiff's entire legal effort amounted to a seven-page complaint, but the trial court awarded Plaintiff over $750,000 in attorneys fees.

That's in excess of $100,000 a page.

Now, it's the law. At least until the U.S. Supreme Court gets hold of it, which will be some time from now - if at all since there's no federal question - and since the California Supremes sent it back to the trial court. Bounty hunters will have a field day.

Is this an indication of how the ruling on Proposition 64 will fare when it finally gets heard?

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Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Friday, December 03, 2004 at 00:29 Comments Closed (0) |
 
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