McCune Wright Arevalo, LLP (MWA)— a law firm specializing in complex litigation and appellate counsel — has filed an amicus curiae brief with the California Court of Appeal on behalf of Legal Services of Northern California, Public Counsel, Western Center for Law & Poverty, and Legal Aid Society of San Bernardino. The brief supports the arguments made by Appellants in Garcia v. Desert Hot Springs, who were denied recovery of their attorneys’ fees by the trial court after successfully obtaining judgment below against Respondents, the City of Desert Hot Springs and related entities. Without the ability to pursue violators for attorneys’ fees, populations already underserved by the legal community will find it that much harder to retain knowledgeable and skilled counsel to enforce their legal rights.
California law provides that litigants may obtain attorneys’ fees when they successfully litigate lawsuits that serve the “public interest.” But after Petitioners successfully obtained judgment against the City for failing to comply with the State’s affordable housing planning requirements, the trial court ruled that the litigants could not recover their attorneys’ fees because the lawsuit was supposedly “unnecessary.” But instead of accounting for the lack of any official enforcement against Desert Hot Springs, the Court denied fees because, in its view, the City was attempting to comply with the law before the lawsuit. The court reached this holding despite the City being out of compliance with state law for more than five years.
MWA’s Steven Haskins, lead partner of the firm’s Writs, Motions, & Appeals practice, headed MWA’s efforts on the brief. Discussing the brief, he noted the particular irony of the trial court’s determination that Appellants’ lawsuit was “unnecessary” even as California’s housing crisis reaches unprecedented proportions. “California needs to build hundreds of thousands of homes just to keep up with demand over the next five years, and that is without considering the hundreds of thousands of homes needed to make up for the existing deficit in demand,” Haskins said. “But still,” he continued, “too many local communities delay planning as a means of avoiding their commitment to affordable housing.” The appeal must succeed, he concluded, because “it is necessary to restore judicial access for those that must incur risk and expense” to enforce important public rights.
A decision on the underlying appeal in Garcia v. Desert Hot Springs is expected later this year or early in 2022.
About McCune Wright Arevalo, LLP: McCune Wright Arevalo, LLP has a deep history of success for its clients, including a $203 million verdict against Wells Fargo Bank, recovery of over $1 billion for its clients, and over 100 contingency cases with recovery of $1 million or more. MWA maintains California offices in Ontario, San Bernardino, Palm Desert, and Irvine and supports its national practice with offices in Illinois and New Jersey. For over 30 years, MWA has successfully represented clients involved in general complex and commercial litigation, as well as personal injury and class action matters. Visit mccunewright.com for more information.