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This case was last updated from Los Angeles County Superior Courts on 07/08/2019 at 20:54:18 (UTC).

INTL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS LOCAL 848 ET AL VS CITY OF MON

Case Summary

On 11/30/2015 INTL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS LOCAL 848 filed an Other lawsuit against CITY OF MON. This case was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Courts, Stanley Mosk Courthouse located in Los Angeles, California. The Judge overseeing this case is JOANNE O'DONNELL. The case status is Disposed - Dismissed.

Case Details Parties Documents Dockets

 

Case Details

  • Case Number:

    ****9367

  • Filing Date:

    11/30/2015

  • Case Status:

    Disposed - Dismissed

  • Case Type:

    Other

  • Court:

    Los Angeles County Superior Courts

  • Courthouse:

    Stanley Mosk Courthouse

  • County, State:

    Los Angeles, California

Judge Details

Presiding Judge

JOANNE O'DONNELL

 

Party Details

Plaintiffs and Petitioners

VILLAFUERTE RUTH

MARTIN ISABEL

BAZA JOSE

INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS

Defendants and Respondents

DOES 1 THROUGH 20

MONTEREY PARK CITY OF

Interested Party

FIRST TRANSIT INC.

Attorney/Law Firm Details

Plaintiff and Petitioner Attorneys

BUSH GOTTLIEB A.L.C.

GUTMAN DICKINSON JULIE

Defendant Attorney

NEUDECKER JAMES MARK ESQ.

Interested Party Attorneys

NEUDECKER JAMES M. ESQ.

JESSE L. MILLER

MILLER JESSE LUKE

 

Court Documents

Appeal - Remittitur - Other

3/11/2019: Appeal - Remittitur - Other

Memorandum

4/19/2019: Memorandum

Minute Order

6/13/2019: Minute Order

PROOF OF PERSONAL SERVICE-CIVIL

12/9/2015: PROOF OF PERSONAL SERVICE-CIVIL

PROOF OF SERVICE SUMMONS

12/21/2015: PROOF OF SERVICE SUMMONS

PETITIONERS/PLAINTIFFS' OPPOSITION TO DEMURRER

3/29/2016: PETITIONERS/PLAINTIFFS' OPPOSITION TO DEMURRER

REQUEST FOR JUDICTAL NOTICE IN SUPPORT OF DEFENDANTS CITY OF MONTEREY PARK'S AND FIRST TRANSIT, INC.'S DEMURRER TO PLAINTIFFS' FIRST AMENDED VERIFIED PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDATE AND COMPLAINT FOR DEC

3/29/2016: REQUEST FOR JUDICTAL NOTICE IN SUPPORT OF DEFENDANTS CITY OF MONTEREY PARK'S AND FIRST TRANSIT, INC.'S DEMURRER TO PLAINTIFFS' FIRST AMENDED VERIFIED PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDATE AND COMPLAINT FOR DEC

PETITIONERS/PLAINTIFFS' OBJECTIONS TO LATE-FILED EVIDENCE SUBMITTED BY THE CITY OF MONTEREY PARK AND FIRST TRANSIT, INC. IN SUPPORT OF THE REPLY TO THE OPPOSITION TO DEMURRER

4/1/2016: PETITIONERS/PLAINTIFFS' OBJECTIONS TO LATE-FILED EVIDENCE SUBMITTED BY THE CITY OF MONTEREY PARK AND FIRST TRANSIT, INC. IN SUPPORT OF THE REPLY TO THE OPPOSITION TO DEMURRER

Minute Order

7/21/2016: Minute Order

STIPULATION TO CONTINUE TRIAL SETTING CONFERENCE AND HEARING ON DEFENDANTS CITY OF MONTEREY PARK'S AND FIRST TRANSIT, INC.'S DEMURRER TO PLAINTIFFS' FIRST AMENDED VERIFIED PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDATE

7/21/2016: STIPULATION TO CONTINUE TRIAL SETTING CONFERENCE AND HEARING ON DEFENDANTS CITY OF MONTEREY PARK'S AND FIRST TRANSIT, INC.'S DEMURRER TO PLAINTIFFS' FIRST AMENDED VERIFIED PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDATE

ORDER CONTINUING TRIAL SETTING CONFERENCE AND HEARING ON DEFENDANTS CITY OF MONTEREY PARK'S AND FIRST TRANSIT, INC'S DEMURRER TO PLAINTIFFS' FIRST AMENDED VERIFIED PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDATE AND COM

7/21/2016: ORDER CONTINUING TRIAL SETTING CONFERENCE AND HEARING ON DEFENDANTS CITY OF MONTEREY PARK'S AND FIRST TRANSIT, INC'S DEMURRER TO PLAINTIFFS' FIRST AMENDED VERIFIED PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDATE AND COM

NOTICE OF CASE REASSIGNMENT

8/4/2016: NOTICE OF CASE REASSIGNMENT

Proof of Service

9/29/2016: Proof of Service

ORDER SUSTAINING THE DEMURRER TO THE FIRST AMENDED PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDATE WITH LEAVE TO AMEND

10/26/2016: ORDER SUSTAINING THE DEMURRER TO THE FIRST AMENDED PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDATE WITH LEAVE TO AMEND

DECLARATION OF JAMES M. NEUDECKER IN SUPPORT OF DEFENDANTS/RESPONDENTS CITY OF MONTEREY PARK'S AND FIRST TRANSIT, INC.'S DEMURRER TO PLAINTIFFS' SECOND AMENDED VERIFIED PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDATE AN

12/28/2016: DECLARATION OF JAMES M. NEUDECKER IN SUPPORT OF DEFENDANTS/RESPONDENTS CITY OF MONTEREY PARK'S AND FIRST TRANSIT, INC.'S DEMURRER TO PLAINTIFFS' SECOND AMENDED VERIFIED PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDATE AN

ORDER SUSTAINING THE DEMURRER TO THE SECOND AMENDED PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDATE WITHOUT LEAVE TO AMEND

3/1/2017: ORDER SUSTAINING THE DEMURRER TO THE SECOND AMENDED PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDATE WITHOUT LEAVE TO AMEND

NOTICE OF ENTRY OF JUDGMENT/DISMISSAL/OTHER ORDER

4/11/2017: NOTICE OF ENTRY OF JUDGMENT/DISMISSAL/OTHER ORDER

NOTICE TO REPORTER TO PREPARE TRANSCRIPT ON APPEAL PER CRC RULE 8.124

7/31/2017: NOTICE TO REPORTER TO PREPARE TRANSCRIPT ON APPEAL PER CRC RULE 8.124

55 More Documents Available

 

Docket Entries

  • 06/28/2019
  • Answer; Filed by First Transit, Inc. (Real Party in Interest)

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  • 06/28/2019
  • Answer; Filed by Monterey Park, City of (Defendant)

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  • 06/13/2019
  • at 11:10 AM in Department 86; Court Order

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  • 06/13/2019
  • Minute Order ( (Court Order)); Filed by Clerk

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  • 06/13/2019
  • Certificate of Mailing for (Minute Order (Court Order) of 06/13/2019); Filed by Clerk

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  • 04/19/2019
  • Memorandum (of Costs on Appeal); Filed by International Brotherhood of Teamsters, (Plaintiff)

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  • 03/11/2019
  • Reversed and remanded with directions. B282971; Filed by Clerk

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  • 07/31/2017
  • NOTICE TO REPORTER TO PREPARE TRANSCRIPT ON APPEAL PER CRC RULE 8.124

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 07/31/2017
  • Ntc to Reptr/Mon to Prep Transcrpt; Filed by Clerk

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  • 06/09/2017
  • APPELLANT'S NOTICE DESIGNATING RECORD ON APPEAL (UNLIMITED CIVIL CASE)

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119 More Docket Entries
  • 12/09/2015
  • Proof of Service (not Summons and Complaint); Filed by International Brotherhood of Teamsters, (Plaintiff)

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 12/09/2015
  • Proof of Service (not Summons and Complaint); Filed by International Brotherhood of Teamsters, (Plaintiff)

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  • 12/02/2015
  • Notice of Trial Setting Conference and Attached Orders Thereon; Filed by Clerk

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  • 12/02/2015
  • Petition; Filed by International Brotherhood of Teamsters, (Plaintiff)

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 12/02/2015
  • PROOF OF SERVICE OF PETITIONER/PLAINTIFFS OPPOSITION TO DEMURRER

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 12/02/2015
  • NOTICE OF TRIAL SETTING CONFERENCE & ATTACHED ORDERS THEREON

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 12/02/2015
  • FIRST AMENDED VERIFIED PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDATE AND ETC.

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 12/02/2015
  • Notice of Trial Setting Conference and Attached Orders Thereon; Filed by Clerk

    Read MoreRead Less
  • 11/30/2015
  • Petition; Filed by null

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  • 11/30/2015
  • VERIFIED PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDATE AND COMPLAINT FOR DECLARATORY RELIEF

    Read MoreRead Less

Tentative Rulings

Case Number: BS159367    Hearing Date: November 20, 2020    Dept: 86

INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS v. CITY OF MONTEREY PARK

Case Number: BS159367

Hearing Date: October 2, 2020 and November 20, 2020

[Tentative] ORDER GRANTING PETITIONERS’ MOTION FOR ATTORNEY FEES


Petitioners International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 848, José Baza, Ruth Villafuerte, and Isabel Martin (collectively, Petitioners) request attorney fees in the amount of the amount of $744,355 plus $2,251.50 in costs pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 1021.5 (Section 1021.5).

Respondents, the City of Monterey Park (the City) and First Transit, Inc., oppose the motion.

The Motion is GRANTED in the amount of $290,625.

APPLICABLE LAW

Section 1021.5 authorizes an award of attorney’s fees in “public interest” litigation. Section 1021.5 provides in relevant part:

“Upon motion, a court may award attorneys' fees to a successful party against one or more opposing parties in any action which has resulted in the enforcement of an important right affecting the public interest if: (a) a significant benefit, whether pecuniary or nonpecuniary, has been conferred on the general public or a large class of persons, (b) the necessity and financial burden of private enforcement … are such as to make the award appropriate, and (c) such fees should not in the interest of justice be paid out of the recovery, if any.” 

The basic objective of the “private attorney general” doctrine “is to encourage suits enforcing important public policies by providing substantial attorney fees to successful litigants in such cases.” (Maria P. v. Riles (1987) 43 Cal.3d 1281, 1289; Graham v. DaimlerChrysler Corp. (2004) 34 Cal.4th 553, 565.) The statute awards successful public interest litigants with attorney’s fees where three statutory requirements are established. (Vasquez v. State of California (2008) 45 Cal.4th 243, 250-251.) The burden is on the fee claimant to establish each statutory requirement, including that its litigation costs transcend its personal interest in the litigation. (Save Open Space Santa Monica Mountains v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County (County of Los Angeles) (2000) 84 Cal.App.4th 235, 246.)

The issue of whether to award fees is committed to the trial court’s discretion. (Flannery v. California Highway Patrol (1998) 61 Cal.App.4th 629, 634.)

Were Petitioners Successful Public Interest Litigants?

The parties dispute whether Petitioners were successful in this litigation.

When it comes to Section 1021.5, the successful party is “the party to litigation that achieves its objectives.” (Graham v. DaimlerChrysler Corp. (2004) 34 Cal.4th 553, 571; Folsom v. Butte County Assn. of Governments (1982) 32 Cal.3d 668, 686, [looking to “litigation aim”]; Harbor v. Deukmejian (1987) 43 Cal.3d 1078, 1103 [successful party is the one who “vindicate[s] the principle upon which [it] brought th[e] action”].) Such a definition is both “pragmatic” and “broad.” (Graham v. DaimlerChrysler Corpsupra, 34 Cal.4th at 565.) To be the successful party, a party need not obtain a final judgment in its favor. (Ibid.Maria P. v. Riles (1987) 43 Cal.3d 1281, 1290-1291.) Moreover, a party need not succeed on each of its claims. (RiverWatch v. County of San Diego Dept. of Environmental Health (2009) 175 Cal.App.4th 768, 782-783.)

Factual Background:

In 2015, the City sought bids to operate its municipal transit system.

Labor Code section 1072 applies to such a bidding process. Subdivision (a) of Labor Code section 1072 requires a bidder “to declare as part of the bid for a service contract whether or not the bidder will retain the employees of the prior contractor or subcontractor for a period of not less than 90 days, as provided in this chapter, if awarded the service contract.” Where a bidder is willing to make such a commitment, subdivision (b) of Labor Code section 1072 provides the letting authority “shall give a 10-percent preference” to such a bidder.

First Transit submitted a bid to the City. Its bid did not specify whether First Transit would retain the prior contractor’s employees for a period of at least 90 days.

After reviewing First Transit’s bid, Petitioners (International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 848) advised the City it believed First Transit’s bid did not comply with Labor Code section 1072.

The City nonetheless applied a 10-percent preference to First Transit’s bid. The City awarded the contract to First Transit.

Petitioners filed a petition for a writ of mandate and a complaint for declaratory relief. Petitioners’ initial pleading requested the court (1) order the City to rescind the City’s award of the contract to First Transit; (2) require the City to evaluate all bids consistent with the Labor Code; and (3) declare the obligations of awarding authorities and bidders under Labor Code section 1072.

Ultimately, the court sustained Respondents’ demurrer to an amended version of the petition and complaint without leave to amend. The court (Hon. Amy Hogue) entered judgment against Petitioners and Petitioner’s appealed. The Court of Appeal reversed the judgment and remanded the matter to the trial court. (International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 848 v. City of Monterey Park (2019) 30 Cal.App.5th 1105, 1107.)

The Court of Appeal explained Labor Code section 1072, subdivision (a) obligates a bidder to state in its written bid whether it will retain the prior contractor’s employees. (Ibid.) Further, the Court of Appeal advised a municipality “can only give the 10-percent preference to a bidder whose bid qualifies under section 1072, subdivision (a).” (Id. at 1112.) The Court of Appeal found error in the trial court’s determination Labor Code section 1072 allows “a public agency to award a preference under section 1072 to a contractor who communicates its willingness to retain employees other than in its bid.” (Id. at 112.) Finally, the Court of Appeal noted the trial court’s finding First Transit’s bid was an “inconsequential variance” was not an issue before the court because the pleading did not raise the issue.

Upon remand, Respondents filed an answer denying the contract award process violated Labor Code section 1072.

The parties ultimately agreed the matter became moot with the passage of time (the contract in issue expired) and the parties stipulated to dismiss the action.

The Parties’ Positions

Petitioners contend they were the successful party in the litigation because they obtained a declaration from the Court of Appeal—Labor Code section 1072 requires bidders to affirmatively state whether a predecessor contractor’s employees would be retained. The 10-percent preference available under the statutory scheme is only available where there is compliance with the statutory requirements of the bidding process.

Respondents believe Petitioners misconstrue the relief they obtained in the action. Respondents contend the Court of Appeal recognized an awarding agency may consider a bid that may not conform with Labor Code section 1072, subdivision (a) so long as any variance is inconsequential.

The Relief Petitioners Sought

In their second amended petition and complaint, they sought the following relief:

  1. A declaration that compliance with Labor Code section 1072 requires a clear declaratory statement in any bid, which sets forth whether or not the bidder will retain the employees of the prior contractor for a period of not less than 90 days (1072 subdivision (a)); and a substantiated factual determination by the awarding authority that any bidder granted the Section 1072 Preference has affirmatively declared in its bid that it agrees to retain the employees of the prior contractor for a period of not less than 90 days. (1072 subdivision (b));

  2. A declaration that First Transit failed to comply with Labor Code section 1072, subdivision (a), and, therefore, its proposal is void and disqualified;

  3. A declaration that the City failed to comply with Labor Code section 1072, subdivision (b), and, therefore, the Spirit Bus contract awarded to First Transit shall be rescinded and without legal effect;

  4. A peremptory writ of mandate issued under seal of this Court, ordering the City of Monterey Park to rescind and/or set aside the Spirit Bus transit service contract with First Transit;

  5. An order that the City issue a new request for proposals, and that all eligible proposals be evaluated in a manner consist with Labor Code sections 1070 through 1074;

  6. Alternatively, an order that City reevaluate all proposals in full compliance with its duty pursuant to Labor Code section 1072;

    . . . .”

Litigation Results

Viewing the litigation broadly and pragmatically, Petitioners essentially had two objectives: First, obtain an interpretation of Labor Code section 1072 requiring strict compliance by awarding authorities with the statute. That is, the Labor Code “requires a clear declaratory statement in any bid . . . .” The bidder’s affirmative statement is required to obtain the 10-percent preference. Second, Petitioner’s sought a court order setting aside the City’s award of the contract to First Transit and a new bidding process for the letting of the contract.

Through their action Petitioners obtained an “interpretation” of “unambiguous” “statutory language.” (International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 848 v. City of Monterey Park, supra, 30 Cal.App.5th at 1112.) Thus, it is now clear in the law with published appellate authority that an awarding authority has no discretion to award the 10-percent preference where the bid does not make an affirmative representation about ongoing employment.

While Petitioners did not achieve their second broad litigation objective—an order setting aside the City’s contract with First Transit—it was through no fault of Petitioners. The delay of litigation in the trial court and Court of Appeal mooted out the objective as the contract expired.

By surviving demurrer, Petitioners obtained a concrete rule that all bids have a clear declaratory statement addressing Labor Code section 1072, subdivision (a) to obtain the 10-percent preference.

[At the initial hearing in this matter, the court viewed the Court of Appeal’s comments concerning an inconsequential variance as undermining Petitioners’ position they had established clear law concerning Labor Code section 1072. After argument the court reviewed Konica Business Machines U.S.A., Inc. v. Regents of the University of California (1988) 206 Cal.App.3d 449 and the Court of Appeal’s discussion of variance. As the Court of Appeal did not decide whether failure to comply with a statutory requirement was analogous to “a variance from bidding specifications” (International of Teamsters, Local 848 v. City of Monterey Park, supra, 30 Cal.App.5th at 1114), Petitioners did establish a cause of action for violation of Labor Code section 1072, subdivision (a) will always survive a demurrer even if an awarding agency argues the failure to do so was an inconsequential variance. The Court of Appeal explained “whether a variance is inconsequential is a question of fact, subject to review by substantial evidence, that is not properly decided on demurrer.” (Ibid.) Thus, the court ultimately found Petitioner’s argument on the matter persuasive after further consideration. The court set the matter for further argument as Respondent had not been given an opportunity to argue further.]

Given that Petitioners were the successful party in the litigation, the court finds it is entitled to an attorney’s fee award under Section 1021.5.

First, Petitioners enforced an important right affecting the public interest. The court is not persuaded by Respondents that Petitioners’ action did not lead to “enforcement” of an important right affecting the public interest. Petitioners established a cause of action based on Respondents’ actions. That the delay associated with litigation did not result in set aside of the contract, does not undermine enforcement of the statutory right and provide instruction to awarding agencies about how they must proceed.

There can also be no dispute the litigation conferred a significant benefit on a large number of persons. The Court of Appeal opinion makes clear awarding agencies must abide by Labor Code section 1072 and reinforces statutory policy protecting employees.

Finally, there can also be no dispute private enforcement was necessary here because the litigation was against government. In addition, the financial burden of private enforcement warrants subsidizing Petitioners’ attorneys. The litigation here has benefitted many employees within the state, and Petitioners will not receive any direct economic benefit from this litigation.

Attorney’s Fees Recoverable:

Petitioners originally requested an award of attorney’s fees in the amount of $693,775. In their reply brief, Petitioners increased the amount sought to $744,355 plus $2,251.50 in costs. (Petitioners’ counsel explained Petitioners sought an addition $50,580 for time expended preparing the reply brief, attempting to negotiate a settlement and a response to Respondents’ request to continue the motion.)

  1. Lodestar Fees

When assessing the amount of any attorney’s fee award including those made pursuant to Section 1021.5, courts typically determine what is reasonable through the application of the “lodestar” method with adjustments for the hours and rates that are reasonable given the expertise of counsel and difficulty of the matter presented. (Ketchum v. Moses (2001) 24 Cal.4th 1122, 1136; see also Mann v. Quality Old Time Service, Inc. (2006) 139 Cal.App.4th 328, 342 [concerning apportionment of fees for partially successful actions].)

The lodestar method is well known. To determine a reasonable fee award, the court will calculate a base fee amount from a compilation of (1) time reasonably spent and (2) the reasonable hourly compensation of each attorney. (Serrano v. Priest (1977) 20 Cal.3d 25, 48; see also Meister v. Regents of University of California (1998) 67 Cal.App.4th 437, 448-449.)

Normally, a “reasonable” hourly rate is the prevailing rate charged by attorneys of similar skill and experience in the relevant community. (PLCM Group, Inc. v. Drexler (2000) 22 Cal.4th 1084, 1095.) That amount may then be adjusted through the consideration of various factors, including “(1) the novelty and difficulty of the questions involved, (2) the skill displayed in presenting them, (3) the extent to which the nature of the litigation precluded other employment by the attorneys, and (4) the contingent nature of the fee award.” (Ketchum v. Moses, supra, 24 Cal.4th at 1132.) The court is vested with discretion to determine which claimed hours were reasonably spent, and a reasonable hourly rate for an attorney. (Dover Mobile Estates v. Fiber Form Products, Inc. (1990) 220 Cal.App.3d 1494, 1501; see also Flannery v. California Highway Patrol (1987) 61 Cal.App.4th 629, 644. [“We readily acknowledge the discretion of the trial judge to determine the value of professional services rendered in his or her court.”])

The attorney’s fee award sought by Petitioners is based on time expended by eight different timekeeper attorneys as well as an additional category for “law clerks/support staff.” Those timekeepers’ rates range from $375 to $900 per hour for attorneys and $200 per hour for law clerks and support staff. (Memo 12:11-22.) Petitioners’ counsel reports it expended 1,120 hours litigating this matter. (The hours expended do not include the additional time claimed for the reply brief, attempting to negotiate a settlement or opposing Respondent’s efforts to continue the motion. Petitioners’ attorneys claim another 93.3 hours for such services.)

Respondents make two fairly brief arguments in opposition to attorney’s fees requested by Petitioners. First, Respondents contend “Petitioners have failed to establish that the hourly rates at which their counsel and staff billed their time are reasonable.” (Opposition 14:8-9.) Respondents explain a federal court in 2017 found a reasonable hourly rate for Attorney Gottlieb to be $400—less than half of the $850 per hour sought. Respondents report the federal litigation was a “complex and lengthy class action claiming numerous statutory violations . . . .” (Opposition 14:12-14.) Respondents contend if $400 was a reasonable hourly rate in the complicated federal litigation “this simple action” does not warrant a $900 per hour attorney’s fee. (Opposition 14:15-16.) Respondent does not specifically identify any other timekeeper and whether his/her hourly fee is unreasonable.

Second, Respondents argue “Petitioners have failed to establish that the number of hours and the total that their counsel and staff billed are reasonable.” (Opposition 14:17-18.) Respondent asserts the time expended by Petitioners’ attorneys—1,120 hours—was unreasonable when compared to the time expended by Respondent’s counsel in this matter: “In contrast, the City and First Transit incurred fees of only $221,906.35 for only 393.4 hours billed, primarily be only 2 attorneys plus staff.”[1] (Opposition 14:19-20.)

Respondents contend the matter before the court “was a simple one.” (Opposition 14:21.) Respondents assert:

“Not only was the action based on a single claim of a single violation of a single statutory provision, i.e., section 1072. But the action rested its claim on section 1072’s plain language, which in pertinent part numbers fewer than a hundred words, and on its legislative history, which is brief and readily available on the internet. In addition, the action consisted of ‘Groundhog Day’ briefing on section 1072 repeated three times—initially on the demurrer to the first amended petition and complaint, again on the demurrer to the second amended petition and complaint, and yet again on appeal. The action did not proceed in this Court beyond the judgment of dismissal, which turned solely on the proper construction of section 1072. There was no discovery and no trial. Similarly, the action did not proceed in the Court of Appeal beyond the judgment reversing this Court’s judgment, which itself turned solely on the proper construction of section 1072. To seek fees of $693,775 for 1,120 hours billed by 8 attorneys plus staff is unreasonable on its face.” (Opposition 14:21-15:7 [footnote omitted].)

As to Petitioners’ attorneys’ hourly rates, Respondents identify (albeit as an example) one hourly rate it contends is unreasonable—that of Attorney Gottlieb. Respondents’ reliance on the federal court’s 2017 decision in another matter about Attorney Gottlieb’s hourly rate is not particularly compelling. The court is not bound by a 2017 federal court decision from Fresno, California. The court notes earlier this year the Los Angeles Superior Court found Attorney Gottlieb’s $800 hourly rate was “not outside the bounds of reasonableness” in the context of that particular case and most of the work being billed at $650 per hour. (Gottlieb Reply Decl., Ex. A.)

Petitioners have also submitted expert witness evidence in support of their fee request. (Pearl Decl., Litt Decl., and Renick Decl.) The experts all opine the hourly rates for Petitioners’ attorneys are reasonable and consistent with those of the Los Angeles legal community. (Pearl Decl., ¶ 17; Litt Decl., ¶ 37; Renick Decl., ¶ 18.) Of course, the court is not required to receive expert testimony on the matter. (See PLCM Group v. Drexler (2000) 22 Cal.4th 1084, 1096 [trial court has its own expertise in determining value of legal services and may make its own determination without the necessity of expert testimony].) Respondents have not submitted any evidence about hourly rates—expert or otherwise—to contradict that provided by Petitioners.

Accordingly, based on the evidence before the court, the court cannot find as argued by Respondents the hourly rates charged by Petitioners’ attorneys are unreasonable. Such rates, however, necessarily inform on whether the number of hours expended to perform a particular task is reasonable. That is, an attorney charging $900 per hour should have the knowledge, skill and experience to complete a task in substantially less time than attorneys with hourly rates of $425 or $625.

As to the number of hours expended by Petitioners’ attorneys, the court notes Respondents cannot merely rely on a generalized argument of unreasonableness to effectively challenge a request for attorney’s fees:

“In challenging attorney fees as excessive because too many hours of work are claimed, it is the burden of the challenging party to point to the specific items challenged, with a sufficient argument and citations to the evidence. General arguments that fees claimed are excessive, duplicative, or unrelated do not suffice. Failure to raise specific challenges in the trial court forfeits the claim on appeal.” (Lunada Biomedical v. Nunez (2014) 230 Cal.App.4th 459, 488.)

Nonetheless, “[a] trial court may not rubberstamp a request for attorney fees, but must determine the number of hours reasonably expended.” (Donahue v. Donahue (2010) 182 Cal.App.4th 259, 271.) That said, the trial court is not required to “become enmeshed in a meticulous analysis of every detailed facet of the professional representation.” (Serrano v. Unruh (1982) 32 Cal.3d at 642.) “To the extent a trial court is concerned that a particular fee award is excessive, it has broad discretion to adjust the fee downward or deny an unreasonable fee altogether.” (Ketchum v. Moses, supra, 24 Cal.4th at 1138.)

Petitioners have requested compensation for an extraordinary number of hours in this matter—more than 1,120—on a single issue of statutory interpretation resolved in the trial court by demurrer followed by a successful appeal and a fee motion. The action did not involve any discovery. The issue before the court was a pure legal one. The number of hours expended by Petitioners for which they seek compensation equates to the work of one full-time attorney doing nothing else for 28 weeks or 7 months of full-time work. [1,120 divided by 40 equals 28.] The additional fees sought in Petitioners’ reply brief represent an additional 93.3 hours of time expended—the equivalent of more than two weeks of full-time work.

To determine the reasonable number of hours expended by Petitioners’ counsel, the court reviewed the entire legal file in this matter. It reveals the following history:

Of course, after the trial court proceedings, the matter proceeded to the Court of Appeal. From the billing records provided by Petitioners, it does not appear the Court of Appeal proceedings were protracted or complicated.[3] In the Court of Appeal, review of a demurrer is de novo. Thus, Petitioners’ opening brief would be similar to its opposition brief filed in the trial court on the issue of statutory interpretation. Petitioners’ attorneys’ work on a reply brief would have been different than what they had prepared in the trial court.

While the court is not required to “become enmeshed in a meticulous analysis of every detailed facet of the professional representation,” (Serrano v. Unruh, supra, 32 Cal.3d at 642) because of the nature of the dispute (statutory interpretation), the procedural history of the case (sustention of a demurrer without leave to amend), an appeal and the seemingly exorbitant fee request, the court reviewed every line item entry on Petitioners’ counsels’ billing statements.

The court finds Petitioners’ attorney’s fees request to be patently unreasonable.

From the day Petitioners filed their initial pleading in this matter (November 30, 2015) to the date the court sustained the demurrer to the Amended Petition (March 1, 2017), Petitioners’ counsel expended just under 300 hours (296.4), the equivalent of 7.5 weeks of full-time work, after Petitioners’ counsel had completed the initial draft of the petition. The number of hours expended is remarkable given the trial court proceedings consisted of a trial setting conference (Petitioners’ counsel appeared remotely) and three law and motion hearings.

From the court’s perspective, the billing statements are rife with examples of overstaffing, duplication of efforts, excessive time expended given the task involved and hourly rate charged, and excessive conferences concerning strategy or feedback with multiple attorneys. This is especially true given the nature of the action and the billing rate of the attorneys involved.

The court provides the following as examples from Petitioners’ counsels’ billing entries the court considers unreasonable:

A three-sentence stipulation concerning Respondents’ responsive pleading (and apparently prepared by Respondent) resulted in no less than 14 billing entries—the stipulation is a one-page document. Of the 14 billing entries, a timekeeper billing at $900 per hour expended 2.5 hours ($2,250). The overall fees claimed by Petitioners for the stipulation (filed by Respondents) are at least $5,560. The stipulation involved three different timekeepers.

There are multiple time entries for reviewing or organizing the file by a timekeeper billing at $450 or $625 per hour. (See, e.g., 12/31/15, 1/18/16, 3/29/16, 4/15/16, 4/20/16, 6/9/16, 3/6/17, 3/10/17.)

Certain task performed are unreasonable given the task and the hourly rate of counsel. (See, e.g., 12/1/15, 12/7/15, 1/11/16, 1/25/16, 3/8/16, 3/10/16, 3/31/16 [prep for status conference], 4/1/16 [remote appearance], 4/7/16, 4/14/16, 4/20/16, 3/2/17, 4/4/17 and 6/1/17.)

Given the overstaffing of attorneys involved in working on the case, there was undoubtedly duplication of efforts. For example, there were multiple attorneys working on an opposition to a demurrer—sometimes on the same date. The same is true for drafts of the appellate briefs. Petitioner’s decision to staff an action involving a writ petition which is generally treated as a law and motion matter with eight different attorneys was unreasonable. (See, e.g., 1/28/16, 1/29/16, 1/29/16, 2/1/16, 2/2/16, 2/3/16, 2/4/16, 2/24/16 and 2/24/16.) [See Cal. Rules of Court, Rule 3.1103, subd. (a)(2); Los Angeles Superior Court Rules, Rule 3.231, subd. (h).]

The total number of hours expended by multiple timekeepers responding to a single demurrer is unreasonable given the attorneys’ billing rates (without regard to duplication of efforts). (See, e.g., 1/20/16 (two entries), 1/25/16, 1/28/16, 1/29/16, 2/1/16, 2/2/16, 2/3/16, 2/4/16 (two entries), 2/9/16, 2/15/16, 2/16/16 (two entries), 2/24/16 (two entries), 2/26/16, 3/8/16, 3/10/16 (two entries), 3/14/16 (two entries), 3/31/16 (two entries), 3/22/16, and 3/23/16 (three entries).)

There are occasions when multiple timekeepers meet to discuss the case and strategy. Given the nature of the case and issues, much of the time expended was unreasonable. (See, e.g., 3/10/16, 3/30/16, 4/4/16, 4/18/16, 4/20/16, 6/17/16, 8/11/16, 9/7/16, and 11/21/16.)

Petitioners’ attorneys did not limit their unreasonable staffing to the trial court. Petitioners’ attorneys used four different attorney timekeepers in connection with drafting Petitioners’ opening brief in the Court of Appeal. According to the court’s calculation, Petitioner is seeking at least $84,512.50 for 133.3 hours of services just for drafting the opening brief. The issue in the court of appeal was whether the trial court had properly sustained a demurrer without leave to amend. The legal issues—statutory interpretation of one statute—had been fully litigated and briefed in the trial court. The standard of review for such an appeal is de novo. It was unreasonable for Petitioners’ attorneys to have spent the equivalent of more than 16 days (more than three five-day work weeks) on the opening brief in this matter.

Based on the court’s review of the legal file in this matter, Petitioners’ counsels’ billing statements, the Court of Appeal decision, the motion, opposition and reply papers, the tasks performed by Petitioners’ counsel and their billing rates, Petitioner is entitled to a total attorney’s fee award of $290,625 in this matter.

CONCLUSION

Based on the foregoing, the motion is granted in the amount of $290,625.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

Dated: November 20, 2020

Hon. Mitchell Beckloff

Superior Court Judge


[1] Thus, the attorneys representing Respondents in this matter charged a blended hourly rate of $564.

[2] Along with their opposition, Petitioners also filed a brief objection to Respondents’ request for judicial notice of a letter from the National Labor Relations Board.

[3] The court reviewed Petitioner’s attorneys’ billing records for an understanding of the proceedings in the Court of Appeal.

Case Number: BS159367    Hearing Date: October 02, 2020    Dept: 86

INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF TEAMSTERS v. CITY OF MONTEREY PARK

Case Number: BS159367

Hearing Date: October 2, 2020

[Tentative] ORDER DENYING PETITIONERS’ MOTION FOR ATTORNEY FEES


Petitioners International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 848, José Baza, Ruth Villafuerte, and Isabel Martin (collectively, Petitioners) request attorney fees in the amount of $693,775 pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 1021.5 (Section 1021.5).

Respondents, the City of Monterey Park (the City) and First Transit, Inc., oppose the motion.

The Motion is DENIED.

APPLICABLE LAW

Section 1021.5 authorizes an award of attorney’s fees in “public interest” litigation. Section 1021.5 provides in relevant part:

“Upon motion, a court may award attorneys' fees to a successful party against one or more opposing parties in any action which has resulted in the enforcement of an important right affecting the public interest if: (a) a significant benefit, whether pecuniary or nonpecuniary, has been conferred on the general public or a large class of persons, (b) the necessity and financial burden of private enforcement … are such as to make the award appropriate, and (c) such fees should not in the interest of justice be paid out of the recovery, if any.” 

The basic objective of the “private attorney general” doctrine “is to encourage suits enforcing important public policies by providing substantial attorney fees to successful litigants in such cases.” (Maria P. v. Riles (1987) 43 Cal.3d 1281, 1289; Graham v. DaimlerChrysler Corp. (2004) 34 Cal.4th 553, 565.) The statute awards successful public interest litigants with attorney’s fees where three statutory requirements are established. (Vasquez v. State of California (2008) 45 Cal.4th 243, 250-251.) The burden is on the fee claimant to establish each statutory requirement, including that its litigation costs transcend its personal interest in the litigation. (Save Open Space Santa Monica Mountains v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County (County of Los Angeles) (2000) 84 Cal.App.4th 235, 246.)

The issue of whether to award fees is committed to the trial court’s discretion. (Flannery v. California Highway Patrol (1998) 61 Cal.App.4th 629, 634.)

Were Petitioners Successful Public Interest Litigants?

The parties dispute whether Petitioners were successful in this litigation.

When it comes to Section 1021.5, the successful party is “the party to litigation that achieves its objectives.” (Graham v. DaimlerChrysler Corp. (2004) 34 Cal.4th 553, 571; Folsom v. Butte County Assn. of Governments (1982) 32 Cal.3d 668, 686, [looking to “litigation aim”]; Harbor v. Deukmejian (1987) 43 Cal.3d 1078, 1103 [successful party is the one who “vindicate[s] the principle upon which [it] brought th[e] action”].) Such a definition is both “pragmatic” and “broad.” (Graham v. DaimlerChrysler Corpsupra, 34 Cal.4th at 565.) To be the successful party, a party need not obtain a final judgment in its favor. (Ibid.Maria P. v. Riles (1987) 43 Cal.3d 1281, 1290-1291.) Moreover, a party need not succeed on each of its claims. (RiverWatch v. County of San Diego Dept. of Environmental Health (2009) 175 Cal.App.4th 768, 782-783.)

Factual Background:

In 2015, the City sought bids to operate its municipal transit system.

Labor Code section 1072 applies to such a bidding process. Subdivision (a) of Labor Code section 1072 requires a bidder “to declare as part of the bid for a service contract whether or not the bidder will retain the employees of the prior contractor or subcontractor for a period of not less than 90 days, as provided in this chapter, if awarded the service contract.” Where a bidder is willing to make such a commitment, subdivision (b) of Labor Code section 1072 provides the letting authority “shall give a 10-percent preference” to such a bidder.

First Transit submitted a bid to the City. Its bid did not specify whether First Transit would retain the prior contractor’s employees for a period of at least 90 days.

After reviewing First Transit’s bid, Petitioners (International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 848) advised the City it believed First Transit’s bid did not comply with Labor Code section 1072.

The City nonetheless applied a 10-percent preference to First Transit’s bid. The City awarded the contract to First Transit.

Petitioners filed a petition for a writ of mandate and a complaint for declaratory relief. Petitioners’ initial pleading requested the court (1) order the City to rescind the City’s award of the contract to First Transit; (2) require the City to evaluate all bids consistent with the Labor Code; and (3) declare the obligations of awarding authorities and bidders under Labor Code section 1072.

Ultimately, the court sustained Respondents’ demurrer to an amended version of the petition and complaint without leave to amend. The court (Hon. Amy Hogue) entered judgment against Petitioners and Petitioner’s appealed. The Court of Appeal reversed the judgment and remanded the matter to the trial court. (International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 848 v. City of Monterey Park (2019) 30 Cal.App.5th 1105, 1107.)

The Court of Appeal explained Labor Code section 1072, subdivision (a) obligates a bidder to state in its written bid whether it will retain the prior contractor’s employees. (Ibid.) Further, the Court of Appeal advised a municipality “can only give the 10-percent preference to a bidder whose bid qualifies under section 1072, subdivision (a).” (Id. at 1112.) The Court of Appeal found error in the trial court’s determination Labor Code section 1072 allows “a public agency to award a preference under section 1072 to a contractor who communicates its willingness to retain employees other than in its bid.” (Id. at 112.) Finally, the Court of Appeal noted the trial court’s finding First Transit’s bid was an “inconsequential variance” was not an issue before the court because the pleading did not raise the issue.

Upon remand, Respondents filed an answer denying the contract award process violated Labor Code section 1072.

The parties ultimately agreed the matter became moot with the passage of time (the contract in issue expired) and the parties stipulated to dismiss the action.

The Parties’ Positions

Petitioners contend they were the successful party in the litigation because they obtained a declaration from the Court of Appeal—Labor Code section 1072 requires bidders to affirmatively state whether a predecessor contractor’s employees would be retained. The 10-percent preference available under the statutory scheme is only available where there is compliance with the statutory requirements of the bidding process.

Respondents believe Petitioners misconstrue the relief they obtained in the action. Respondents contend the Court of Appeal recognized an awarding agency may consider a bid that may not conform with Labor Code section 1072, subdivision (a) so long as any variance is inconsequential.

The Relief Petitioners Sought

In their second amended petition and complaint, they sought the following relief:

  1. A declaration that compliance with Labor Code section 1072 requires a clear declaratory statement in any bid, which sets forth whether or not the bidder will retain the employees of the prior contractor for a period of not less than 90 days (1072 subdivision (a)); and a substantiated factual determination by the awarding authority that any bidder granted the Section 1072 Preference has affirmatively declared in its bid that it agrees to retain the employees of the prior contractor for a period of not less than 90 days. (1072 subdivision (b));

  2. A declaration that First Transit failed to comply with Labor Code section 1072, subdivision (a), and, therefore, its proposal is void and disqualified;

  3. A declaration that the City failed to comply with Labor Code section 1072, subdivision (b), and, therefore, the Spirit Bus contract awarded to First Transit shall be rescinded and without legal effect;

  4. A peremptory writ of mandate issued under seal of this Court, ordering the City of Monterey Park to rescind and/or set aside the Spirit Bus transit service contract with First Transit;

  5. An order that the City issue a new request for proposals, and that all eligible proposals be evaluated in a manner consist with Labor Code sections 1070 through 1074;

  6. Alternatively, an order that City reevaluate all proposals in full compliance with its duty pursuant to Labor Code section 1072;

    . . . .”

Litigation Results

Viewing the litigation broadly and pragmatically, Petitioners essentially had two objectives: First, obtain an interpretation of Labor Code section 1072 requiring strict compliance by awarding authorities with the statute. That is, the Labor Code “requires a clear declaratory statement in any bid . . . .” The bidder’s affirmative statement is required to obtain the 10-percent preference. Second, Petitioner’s sought a court order setting aside the City’s award of the contract to First Transit and a new bidding process for the letting of the contract.

In realistic measure, Petitioners’ success in the litigation—measured by their apparent litigation objectives—was illusory. Other than surviving demurrer, it does not appear Petitioners accomplished anything through the litigation.

It is true Petitioners obtained an “interpretation” of “unambiguous” “statutory language.” (International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 848 v. City of Monterey Park, supra, 30 Cal.App.5th at 1112.) Thus, it is now clear in the law—to the extent it was not before—an awarding authority has no discretion to award the 10-percent preference where the bid does not make an affirmative representation about ongoing employment. The Court of Appeal’s analysis, however, is brief; the Court of Appeal found the statutory language is clear and unambiguous, a court will not create an ambiguity where one does not exist and the legislative purpose of the statute is clear.

There can be no question Petitioners did not achieve their second broad litigation objective. That is, they did not obtain an order setting aside the City’s contract with First Transit. Also, nothing the court ordered compelled the City to conduct another bidding process for the municipal transit system. Neither the trial court nor Court of Appeal made any ruling on the consequences of noncompliance with the Labor Code.

Petitioners’ “success,” however, was limited to surviving demurrer—the litigation did not result in what Petitioners actually sought[1]—a concrete rule that all bids have a clear declaratory statement addressing Labor Code section 1072, subdivision (a) to obtain the 10-percent preference. Instead, the court left open, as a legal and factual issue, whether allowing the 10-percent preference where a bid did not so declare was permissible under an “inconsequential variance” theory.

Thus, the Court of Appeal did not eliminate the issue as a question of law which would have qualitatively affected the Petitioner’s level of success. Instead, by leaving the issue open, as a practical matter, Petitioners did not achieve the success it sought through the litigation. The Court of Appeal effectively left unresolved whether a bidder’s 10-percent preference may be deemed an “inconsequential variance” where the bidder did not comply with Labor Code section 1072, subdivision (a). Such a rule eliminates the strict statutory compliance Petitioners sought through this litigation.

CONCLUSION

Based on the foregoing, the motion is denied. The court finds Petitioners were not successful public interest litigants in this litigation.

Dated: October 2, 2020

Hon. Mitchell Beckloff

Superior Court Judge


[1] Petitioners sought to establish “the financial security of public employees, the protection of social welfare programs and the division of authority between State and municipalities.” (Motion 8:12-13.)

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