CPA Lawyers Net Cash Award

Attorneys representing Citizens Planning Association (CPA) were awarded $175,000 in fees and “bonuses” by Judge Thomas Anderle for their successful attack on the City of Santa Barbara’s environmental analysis of the Veronica Meadows housing development proposed off Las Positas Road. Of the award, $117,228 was for the bills of four attorneys, who charged $350 an hour. Anderle awarded the attorneys an additional $60,000, arguing, “The fee award must be large enough to entice competent counsel to undertake difficult public-interest cases.” State law allows judges discretion in awarding such incentive bonuses to public-interest lawyers. In this instance, attorneys William Parkin and Mark Chytilo had persuaded Judge Anderle that before the City Council could grant developer Mark Lee permission to build an entrance bridge across Las Positas Creek and over park land, city residents must first be given an opportunity to vote on the matter. Thus, Anderle reversed the development approval awarded Lee by the City Council. Although the claim for legal fees was filed against the City of Santa Barbara-as was CPA’s lawsuit-Lee had agreed to assume the risk of all legal costs. Lee’s attorney, Steve Amerikaner, argued the award should be lower because only 10 percent of Parkin and Chytilo’s hours were spent on arguments that persuaded the judge. Furthermore, Amerikaner argued the case was not that legally complicated and no incentive bonus should be tagged on.

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