Thursday, November 29, 2018

City of Oakland v. Oakland Police and Fire Retirement System

Following this court’s published decision in City of Oakland v. Oakland Police & Fire Retirement System (2014) 224 Cal.App.4th 210 (OPFRS)—which involved the legitimacy of certain retirement benefits regularly paid by the Oakland Police and Fire Retirement Board (Board) to members and beneficiaries of the Oakland Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS)—the Retired Oakland Police Officers Association, along with several individual PFRS pensioners (collectively, the “Association”) sought attorney fees in the trial court.  Specifically, the Association—interveners in the underlying action—claimed an entitlement to fees under both California’s private attorney general statute, Code of Civil Procedure section 1021.5 (section 1021.5), and section 1988 of the federal Civil Rights Attorneys’ Fees Award Act of 1976, 42 U.S.C. § 1988 (section 1988).  After considering the matter at some length, the trial court determined that fees were not warranted under either statute.  On appeal, many of the trial court’s numerous conclusions made in connection with its denial of fees are disputed either by the Association or by respondent City of Oakland (City).  We have considered the arguments raised by both parties, and deem an award of attorney fees under section 1021.5 to be proper.  We therefore reverse and remand the matter so that the trial court can determine the appropriate amount of such an award, consistent with our conclusions herein.

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