Thursday, February 5, 2015
Judge Erred in Denying Fee Award to Attorney Parris—C.A.
Court Says Scheper Was Understandably Aghast at Size of Award Sought, but Award Was Mandatory
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Court of Appeal for this district held yesterday that a judge, appalled by the size of an attorney-fee request by Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris, erred in denying fees, in their entirety, given that an award was mandatory under a statute.
Parris, an Antelope Valley attorney, sought a $387,750 award of fees in a case in which his client, Jacob Heller, recovered only $2,158.89, based on Labor Code violations by his former employer.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Barbara M. Scheper found the fee request “so unreasonable and excessive as to shock the conscience,” and refused to make any award.
Writing for Div. Two, Presiding Justice Roger Boren said in an unpublished opinion:
“Despite the court’s understandable shock at the size of Heller’s request, an award of ‘reasonable’ attorney fees is mandated by statute.”
He pointed out that under Labor Code §1194 (a), an employee “is entitled to recover in a civil action the unpaid balance of the full amount of...overtime compensation, including interest thereon, reasonable attorney’s fees, and costs of suit.”
“Given the statutory mandate to award a “reasonable” attorney fee, it was an abuse of discretion to deny fees altogether.”
He pointed out, however:
“Notably, the trial court is not required to calculate an attorney fee based on actual time purportedly expended on the case. Labor Code section 1194 does not mandate a fee based on actual time, instead giving the court discretion to determine a ‘reasonable’ attorney fee.”
Parris was denied attorney fees on appeal
The case is Heller v. Carmel Partners, B253512.
Copyright 2015, Metropolitan News Company