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Supreme Court of California
March 2, 2006, Filed
[**2] [***789] MORENO, J.—This case involves litigation over private attorney general fees awarded pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 1021.5 1 in an action “which has resulted in the enforcement of an important right affecting the public interest … .” Here, plaintiff Ward Connerly successfully pursued litigation to invalidate several state statutes as unconstitutional under article I, section 31 of the California Constitution, enacted in 1996 as Proposition 209, which outlawed governmental preferential treatment by race, sex, and other categories. The state agencies that were the respondents in this writ of mandate action for the most part opted not to defend the statutes, or to litigate only issues of standing and justiciability. It fell to various amici curiae advocacy groups that were in favor of affirmative action to defend the state programs [***790] and statutes on the merits. At some point in the litigation, as will be elaborated below, the amici [****3] curiae were redesignated real parties in interest. After the litigation concluded, the trial court awarded section 1021.5 attorney fees, to be paid both by the state agencies and the advocacy groups as real parties in interest. The award was upheld by the Court of Appeal.
The advocacy groups contend that they were in essence amici curiae, and were not liable for attorney fees in litigation to declare unconstitutional statutes they were not responsible for enacting or enforcing. Connerly, on the other hand, contends that the advocacy groups should be liable for such fees because they were authentic real parties in interest, inasmuch as they had a direct interest in the litigation and were active participants that often shaped the defense of the statutes. We conclude that the advocacy groups were not “opposing parties” within the meaning of section 1021.5, and therefore reverse the Court of Appeal's judgment.
[**3] I. Statement of Facts
Full case includes Shepard's, Headnotes, Legal Analytics from Lex Machina, and more.
37 Cal. 4th 1169 *; 129 P.3d 1 **; 39 Cal. Rptr. 3d 788 ***; 2006 Cal. LEXIS 2871 ****; 2006 Cal. Daily Op. Service 1798; 2006 Daily Journal DAR 2515
WARD CONNERLY, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. STATE PERSONNEL BOARD et al., Defendants and Respondents; THE CALIFORNIA BUSINESS COUNCIL FOR EQUAL OPPORTUNITY et al., Real Parties in Interest and Appellants.
Prior History: [****1] Superior Court of Sacramento County, No. 96CS01082, Lloyd Connelly, Judge. Court of Appeal, Third Dist., No. C043329.
Connerly v. State Personnel Board (Calif Business Council for Equal Oppty.), 2004 Cal. LEXIS 7243 (Cal., Aug. 11, 2004)
real party in interest, attorney's fees, amicus curiae, opposing party, direct interest, curiae, amici, initiative, trial court, easement, state agency, ballot argument, writ of mandate, superior court, present case, parties, advocacy group, real party, participated, landowners, programs, cases, award of attorney's fees, public interest, gave rise, justiciability, beneficial, litigating, grounds, merits
Civil Procedure, Appeals, Standards of Review, Abuse of Discretion, Costs & Attorney Fees, Attorney Fees & Expenses, General Overview, De Novo Review, Basis of Recovery, Statutory Awards, Governments, Legislation, Interpretation, Parties, Amicus Curiae, Real Party in Interest