City of Norco v. MugarAnnotate this Case
Plaintiff-respondent City of Norco (City) filed a receivership action to abate what it described as “nearly 20 life-safety hazards” on a property belonging to defendant-appellant Ronald Mugar. During the litigation, Mugar abated the substandard conditions on the property, and the matter was dismissed. Mugar appealed the trial court's order declaring the City as the prevailing party, and awarding it attorney fees pursuant to Health & Safety Code section 17980.7(c)(11). Mugar contended: (1) his due process rights were violated because the City was represented by a private law firm with an inappropriate financial interest in the litigation, and without adequate supervision by neutral government attorneys; (2) the award of attorney fees unconstitutionally burdened his First Amendment right to petition by penalizing him for asserting defenses in the action; and (3) the City should not be considered the prevailing party. The City argued Mugar forfeited his constitutional arguments, and it contested the merits of Mugar’s claims. After review, the Court of Appeal disagreed with the City that Mugar forfeited his constitutional arguments. On the merits, however, the Court rejected each of Mugar’s contentions and affirmed the judgment.