City of San Diego v. San Diegans for Open GovernmentAnnotate this Case
San Diegans For Open Government (SDOG), represented by Briggs Law Corporation (BLC), filed a verified answer in response to the City of San Diego's (City) complaint in a validation action regarding the City's plan to levy a special tax to finance the expansion of the San Diego Convention Center. SDOG represented that it was an interested party to the litigation. However, at the time it filed its answer, both SDOG and its counsel knew that SDOG was a suspended corporation and neither SDOG nor its attorney informed the superior court or the City of this fact. After SDOG and another defendant ultimately proved successful in the validation action, SDOG sought its attorney fees. The City discovered after a final judgment was entered in SDOG's favor that SDOG had been suspended when it filed its verified answer and was not revived until well after the time period by which an interested party had to answer the validation action. As such, the City moved to strike SDOG's answer and motion for attorney fees. The superior court denied the City's motion and awarded SDOG attorney fees, but limited those fees because SDOG first appeared when it was suspended and did not inform the court or the City of its status. This case presented an issue of first impression for the Court of Appeal: whether under Code of Civil Procedure section 1021.5, should attorney fees be awarded when a suspended corporation files an answer in a validation action and both the corporation and its attorney know it is suspended and it is not revived before the expiration of the deadline to appear in that action? The Court answered this question in the negative, and thus, reversed the order granting SDOG its attorney fees. The Court affirmed the court's order denying the City's motion to strike both the answer and SDOG's motion for attorney fees.