Plaintiff files a Prop. 65 (toxic chemicals warning) case, and -- predictably -- it settles for a tiny amount of civil penalties plus a much larger amount of fees. The trial court isn't happy with the stipulated $72,500 in fees, and thinks it's too high. Particularly the hourly rates, which go up to $895/hour. For a straightforward Prop. 65 case.
So the trial court whacks the requested fee award in half. Plaintiffs move ex parte to modify this award to the stipulated amount. The trial court says no. Plaintiffs then file a noticed motion to do the same thing. Same result. The trial court refuses.
The trial court -- Judge Goldsmith up in San Francisco -- never explains at any of these hearings precisely why he's reducing the requested fees. Or provides a justification for doing so.
So the Court of Appeal reverses. Telling the trial court that it can't just whack the fees for no reason, and that it also can't approve the settlement but reduce the fees, since the entire thing stands or falls as a whole.
But I wonder if Judge Goldsmith doesn't have the last laugh.
I wonder if a part of him was thinking: "You bastards. You know full well this was a shakedown, and that the $72,500 fee award was excessive. You think I can't do anything about that. And you're largely right. I'm not going to keep a crappy case in my court (by disapproving the settlement) just to stop you from getting your fees. But you know what I can do? I can make it hard for you. I can slash you fee award. Once. Twice. Thrice. Make you file three motions. Make you prosecute an appeal. Make you wait a couple of years. And, yeah, you'll get your $72,500. But you'll at least have to work for it."