City of Oakland v. Oakland Police and Fire Retirement SystemAnnotate this Case
In 2014, the court of appeal decided a case that involved the legitimacy of certain retirement benefits regularly paid by the Oakland Police and Fire Retirement Board to members and beneficiaries of the Oakland Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS). The Retired Oakland Police Officers Association and individual PFRS pensioners then sought attorney fees under California’s private attorney general statute, Code of Civil Procedure section 1021.5 and the federal Civil Rights Attorneys’ Fees Award Act of 1976, 42 U.S.C. 1988. The trial court determined that fees were not warranted under either statute. The court of appeal found an award of attorney fees under section 1021.5 to be proper. The Association was a prevailing party and several facts, including the relative poverty of the Association and its members, are all valid considerations in a section 1021.5 fee analysis and tip the scales decisively in favor of a fee award, especially when considered alongside the more modest estimated monetary value of the case discussed above. in successfully litigating to protect both procedural and substantive public pension rights on these facts, the Association was vindicating important rights affecting the public interest. The Association’s actions protected the pensions of the 590 living pensioners and their families, a clear economic benefit.