Friday, October 03, 2014

Ellis Law Group v. Nevada Sugar Loaf Properties (Cal. Ct. App. - Oct. 3, 2014)

Perhaps I'm losing my edge.

Or maybe becoming soft.  Because, typically, in any given week, there's something -- often, many things -- with which to disagree in the published decisions of the Ninth Circuit and California Court of Appeal.  By contrast, when I look over this week, I find that I've largely been limited to being a cheerleader.  An appellate Yes Man.  Agreeing with decision after decision after decision.

There's nothing wrong with that, of course.  Sometimes -- gasp! -- courts get it right.

But isn't it about time to really lay into someone?  To slam, with incredible fury, the inapt, inept, and totally erroneous legal analysis of the Ninth Circuit and/or the Court of Appeal?

Nope.  Not today, anyway.

The Ninth Circuit avoids any potential pent-up fury by taking the day off, and not publishing anything.  By contrast, the California Court of Appeal is willing to take a risk, and publishes this opinion by Justice Hoch.

An opinion that's totally right.

Damn her.

You're not allowed to recover attorney fees if you're a lawyer or law firm engaged in self-representation.  Here, a law firm -- Ellis Law Group LLP -- files an anti-SLAPP motion on its own behalf when a client it's suing for fees files a cross-complaint against it.  The trial court nonetheless awarded the firm $14,500 in fees because the firm's motion was filed by a "contract attorney" at the firm.

No dice.  Justice Hoch holds that if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's a duck.  In this case, a "duck" being a member of the firm.  Perhaps the law firm can successfully avoid some taxes by labeling the attorney an "independent contractor" and paying him by the hour.  But taxes are not attorney's fees.  If he's listed under your firm on the caption, if he has malpractice insurance because you list him as "of counsel" to your firm, and if he's filing papers under your firm name on your behalf, he's a "member" of your firm.  And being a "member" is all that matters.  Regardless of his tax status.  You can't get fees for him.

Couldn't be more right.