Sweetwater Union HS Dist. v. Julian Union Elementary Sch.Annotate this Case
Julian Union Elementary School District (Julian) and Diego Plus Education Corporation (Diego Plus) doing business as Diego Valley Public Charter (Diego Valley, together appellants) appealed an attorney fee award to Sweetwater Union High School District (Sweetwater) made under Code of Civil Procedure section 1021.5. Sweetwater and Julian were public school districts in San Diego County, California. Diego Plus operated the charter schools Diego Valley and Diego Springs Academy (Diego Springs). Diego Plus paid fees to Julian for its Diego Valley charter school program. In March 2015 Sweetwater sent letters to Julian and Diego Valley requesting that they stop operating within Sweetwater's geographic boundaries. In June 2015, after neither Julian nor Diego Valley responded, Sweetwater filed this action to enforce the Charter Schools Act (CSA). In its petition for a writ of mandate, Sweetwater alleged Julian approved a charter petition for Diego Valley and that Diego Valley was operating charter schools outside Julian's geographic boundaries. Appellants claimed Sweetwater did not qualify as a successful party under section 1021.5 because Sweetwater: (1) failed to achieve its primary litigation goal; (2) the relief it achieved was illusory; and (3) its suit was not a catalyst in motivating either Julian or Diego Valley to take or not take any particular action. Even assuming the trial court did not err in awarding Sweetwater successful party status, appellants claim that Sweetwater was not entitled to a fee award because Sweetwater failed to carry its burden of establishing all requirements for a fee award under section 1021.5. Assuming the Court of Appeal rejected its other arguments, appellants claimed the trial court abused its discretion by rubberstamping the amount of attorney fees that Sweetwater requested. On this record, the Court of Appeal could not conclude the trial court abused its discretion in awarding Sweetwater all its requested fees.