Horvitz & Levy obtained a published decision reversing an attorney fees order and holding that courts have discretion in California Public Records Act cases to deny fees to plaintiffs who obtain only minimal or insignificant results.
Plaintiff filed a petition to compel defendant to produce various categories of documents under the California Public Records Act. The trial court granted plaintiff limited relief, ordering the production of only two heavily redacted email strings containing no substantive information. Believing it had no discretion to deny fees under the CPRA’s mandatory fee-shifting provision, the trial court awarded plaintiff substantial attorney fees. The defendant appealed and retained Horvitz & Levy to brief and argue the appeal.
Horvitz & Levy persuaded the Court of Appeal to reverse the fees award and hold that the trial court erred in concluding it lacked any discretion to deny fees. The Court of Appeal held that trial courts have discretion under the CPRA to deny fees when the results obtained are “minimal or insignificant.” The Court of Appeal remanded the case for the trial court to determine whether, applying the “minimal or insignificant” standard, plaintiff was a prevailing party entitled to fees. The trial court then denied plaintiff’s request for fees.