Beames v. City of VisaliaAnnotate this Case
After plaintiff obtained a writ relief when a City of Visalia hearing officer ruled against him in a zoning dispute, his motion for attorney's fees under the Civil Rights Act of 1976 was denied. In this case, plaintiff's writ petition sought relief on the basis of procedural violations of the city's municipal code committed by the hearing officer at the hearing, and the petition made a claim under the Civil Rights Act of 1871.
The Court of Appeal held that the denial of plaintiff's fee motion under 42 U.S.C. 1988 was an abuse of discretion, because plaintiff was a prevailing plaintiff where he succeeded on a significant issue, his section 1983 claim was substantial, and he prevailed on a state law claim based on the same facts as the section 1983 claim. Furthermore, the city's treatment of plaintiff was not in the public's interest or welfare. In this case, at every opportunity to ameliorate the situation, the city seemingly chose to make matters worse. After the administrative hearing where the city's conduct forced plaintiff to go to court, the city only got more aggressive. The court rejected the city's municipal liability claims; held that Farrar v. Hobby (1992) 506 U.S. 103, supported an award of attorney's fees; and rejected the city's remaining arguments.