California Court of Appeal Affirms: No Attorney Fees in Anti-SLAPP Cases Where Law Firm is Represented by an Associate

CARPENTER & ZUCKERMAN et al., v. PAUL COHEN et al.,

Court of Appeals of California, Second District, Division Five.

Filed May 10, 2011.

         The trial court in granting defendants’ request to strike plaintiffs’ memorandum of costs seeking attorney fees incurred as the prevailing parties in a prior appeal, a law firm and its two partners, by using an associate in the law firm, had, in effect, represented themselves in the prior appeal. In this appeal, plaintiffs contend that the trial court erred in granting the motion to tax costs because the attorney who represented them on appeal was not a partner and otherwise had no financial interest in their law firm. Also, plaintiffs contend that, even if the law firm plaintiff cannot recover fees for the legal services of the associate, the individual plaintiffs can recover fees attributable to that associate’s services rendered on their behalf.

        In affirming the order denying plaintiffs’ request for attorney fees for services rendered by the associate to the firm and its partners, we hold that (1) substantial evidence supports the trial court’s finding that the attorney who represented plaintiffs in the prior appeal was doing so as an associate of the law firm and not as an independent contractor, and, therefore, plaintiffs legally are not entitled to an award of attorney fees; and (2) the trial court was justified in concluding that based on the record, the individual plaintiffs could not recover attorney fees in connection with the appeal because there was no showing of any distinction between the cross-claims against the law firm plaintiff and those against the individual plaintiffs.

Read the full opinion here.

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