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AB-579 Mobilehome parks: liability: attorney’s fees.(2011-2012)

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AB579:v99#DOCUMENT


CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2011–2012 REGULAR SESSION

Assembly Bill No. 579


Introduced  by  Assembly Member Monning

February 16, 2011


An act to amend Sections 1021.5 and 1036 of, and to add Section 425.20 to, the Code of Civil Procedure, and to amend Section 800 of the Government Code, relating to mobilehome parks.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


AB 579, as introduced, Monning. Mobilehome parks: liability: attorney’s fees.
Existing law permits a court to award attorney’s fees to a successful party in an action that has resulted in the enforcement of an important right affecting public interest, but does not allow an award of attorney’s fees in favor of public entities, except in limited circumstances. Existing law requires the court to determine and award a successful plaintiff in an inverse condemnation proceeding certain costs, disbursements, expenses, and fees, as provided. Existing law permits a complainant to collect specified attorney’s fees in a civil action to appeal or review an administrative proceeding where the proceeding was the result of arbitrary or capricious action or conduct by the public entity or officer.
This bill would permit the award of attorney’s fees and, in some cases, other litigation expenses, to a local governmental entity in an action brought by the owner of a mobilehome park to challenge the validity or application of a local ordinance, rule, regulation, or initiative measure that regulates space rent or is intended to benefit or protect residents in a mobilehome park, if the local governmental entity is determined to be the prevailing party.
Existing law provides that a cause of action against a person arising from the person’s right of petition or free speech is subject to a special motion to strike, unless the court determines there is a probability that the plaintiff will prevail on the claim.
This bill would also subject certain causes of action against a local government regarding mobilehome parks to a special motion to strike. The motion would apply to a cause of action that challenges the validity or application of a local ordinance, rule, regulation, or initiative measure that regulates space rent, as specified, or a cause of action that challenges a local government’s application or enforcement of any statute that is intended to benefit or protect residents in a mobilehome park, unless the court determines that the plaintiff has established that there is a probability that the plaintiff will prevail on the claim.
Vote: MAJORITY   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: NO   Local Program: NO  

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:


SECTION 1.

 The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
(a) Many local jurisdictions, in an effort to preserve and support affordable housing options, and to protect the investments of all mobilehome owners, have adopted mobilehome rent ordinances to protect mobilehome owners from excessive rent increases. Various state statutes also require local jurisdictions to review and rule upon park owner applications to close or convert rental mobilehome parks and to ensure that proper mitigation is provided to all mobilehome owners who may be displaced from their mobilehome parks due to its closure or conversion.
(b) Under current law, cities and counties that successfully defend their mobilehome rent ordinances, their administrative decisions under their ordinances, and their decisions on park owner closure and conversion applications must bear the costs of their legal defense, even if they win. On the other hand, pursuant to several current state statutes that this bill amends, they must pay the other side’s attorney’s fees if they prevail under these statutes that allow them to challenge mobilehome rent ordinances, local administrative decisions under those ordinances, and local administrative decisions on park owner applications to close and convert rental mobilehome parks.
(c) There has been a disturbing increase in lawsuits brought by mobilehome park owners challenging the adoption and retention of local mobilehome ordinances, challenging local administrative decisions under those ordinances, and challenging local decisions on mobilehome park owner applications to close and convert rental mobilehome parks. These lawsuits often have little likelihood of success, involve excessive, unnecessary, and expensive discovery procedures and, in many instances, cause local jurisdictions to abandon the above protections of mobilehome owners because of the great expense of defending against these lawsuits regardless of the local jurisdictions chances of prevailing. These circumstances have caused these lawsuits to have a chilling effect on local jurisdictions’ willingness and ability to continue to preserve and support affordable housing in mobilehome parks, and to protect the investments of all mobilehome owners, through the adoption and retention of mobilehome rent ordinances, and through the proper enforcement of both these ordinances and the state statutes regarding the closure and conversion of rental mobilehome parks.
(d) It is in the public interest to encourage cities to continue to adopt and retain these local ordinances and continue to properly enforce both these mobilehome park rent ordinances and state statutes regulating the closure and conversion of rental mobilehome parks. To this end, the provisions enacted by this measure shall be construed broadly.

SEC. 2.

 Section 425.20 is added to the Code of Civil Procedure, to read:

425.20.
 (a) (1) The following causes of action shall be subject to a special motion to strike, unless the court determines that the plaintiff has established that there is a probability that the plaintiff will prevail on the claim:
(A) A cause of action brought by the owner of a mobilehome park, as defined in Section 798.4 of the Civil Code, to challenge the validity or application of an ordinance, rule, regulation, or initiative measure adopted by any local governmental entity that regulates space rent, or is otherwise intended to benefit or protect residents in the park.
(B) A cause of action that challenges a local government’s application or enforcement of any state statute that is intended to benefit or protect residents in the mobilehome park.
(2) In making its determination, the court shall consider the pleadings and supporting and opposing affidavits stating the facts upon which the liability or defense is based.
(3) If the court determines that the plaintiff has established a probability that he or she will prevail on the claim, neither that determination nor the fact of that determination shall be admissible in evidence at any later stage of the case, or in any subsequent action, and no burden of proof or degree of proof otherwise applicable shall be affected by that determination in any later stage of the case or in any subsequent proceeding.
(b) In any action subject to subdivision (a), a prevailing defendant on a special motion to strike shall be entitled to recover his or her attorney’s fees and costs. If the court finds that a special motion to strike is frivolous or is solely intended to cause unnecessary delay, the court shall award costs and reasonable attorney’s fees to a plaintiff prevailing on the motion, pursuant to Section 128.5.
(c) The special motion may be filed within 60 days of the service of the complaint or, in the court’s discretion, at any later time upon terms it deems proper. The motion shall be scheduled by the clerk of the court for a hearing not more than 30 days after the service of the motion unless the docket conditions of the court require a later hearing.
(d) All discovery proceedings in the action shall be stayed upon the filing of a notice of motion made pursuant to this section. The stay of discovery shall remain in effect until notice of entry of the order ruling on the motion. The court, on noticed motion and for good cause shown, may order that specified discovery be conducted notwithstanding this subdivision.
(e) For purposes of this section, the following apply:
(1) “Complaint” includes a cross-complaint or a petition.
(2) “Plaintiff” includes a cross-complainant or a petitioner.
(3) “Defendant” includes a cross-defendant or a respondent.
(f) An order granting or denying a special motion to strike shall be appealable under Section 904.1.

SEC. 3.

 Section 1021.5 of the Code of Civil Procedure is amended to read:

1021.5.
 (a) Upon motion, a court may award attorneys’ attorney’s fees to a successful party against one or more opposing parties in any action which has resulted in the enforcement of an important right affecting the public interest if: (a) (1) a significant benefit, whether pecuniary or nonpecuniary, has been conferred on the general public or a large class of persons, (b) (2) the necessity and financial burden of private enforcement, or of enforcement by one public entity against another public entity, are such as to make the award appropriate, and (c) such (3) the fees should not in the interest of justice be paid out of the recovery, if any. With respect to Except as provided in subdivision (c), in actions involving public entities, this section applies to allowances against, but not in favor of, public entities, and no claim shall be required to be filed therefor, unless one or more successful parties and one or more opposing parties are public entities, in which case no claim shall be required to be filed therefor under Part 3 (commencing with Section 900) of Division 3.6 of Title 1 of the Government Code.

Attorneys’

(b) Attorney’s fees awarded to a public entity pursuant to this section shall not be increased or decreased by a multiplier based upon extrinsic circumstances, as discussed in Serrano v. Priest, 20 Cal. 3d 25, 49.
(c) In an action brought by the owner of a mobilehome park, as defined in Section 798.4 of the Civil Code, to challenge the validity or application of an ordinance, rule, regulation, or initiative measure adopted by any local governmental entity that regulates space rent, or is otherwise intended to benefit or protect residents in the park, or is an action that challenges a local government’s application or enforcement of any state statute that is intended to benefit or protect residents in the park, if the local governmental entity is determined to be the prevailing party in the action, or in the defense against the action, meets the criteria of subdivision (a), the court shall award attorney’s fees to the local governmental entity.

SEC. 4.

 Section 1036 of the Code of Civil Procedure is amended to read:

1036.
 (a) In any inverse condemnation proceeding, the court rendering judgment for the plaintiff by awarding compensation, or the attorney representing the public entity who effects a settlement of that proceeding, shall determine and award or allow to the plaintiff, as a part of that judgment or settlement, a sum that will, in the opinion of the court, reimburse the plaintiff’s reasonable costs, disbursements, and expenses, including reasonable attorney, appraisal, and engineering fees, actually incurred because of that proceeding in the trial court or in any appellate proceeding in which the plaintiff prevails on any issue in that proceeding.
(b) In an inverse condemnation proceeding brought by the owner of a mobilehome park, as defined in Section 798.4 of the Civil Code, to challenge the validity or application of an ordinance, rule, regulation, or initiative measure adopted by any local governmental entity which regulates space rent, or is otherwise intended to benefit or protect residents in the park, or is an inverse condemnation proceeding that challenges a local government’s application or enforcement of any state statute that is intended to benefit or protect residents in the park, if the local governmental entity is determined to be the prevailing party and the action meets the criteria of subdivision (a), the court shall award attorney’s fees to the local governmental entity.

SEC. 5.

 Section 800 of the Government Code is amended to read:

800.
 (a) In any civil action to appeal or review the award, finding, or other determination of any administrative proceeding under this code or under any other provision of state law, except actions resulting from actions of the California Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board, if it is shown that the award, finding, or other determination of the proceeding was the result of arbitrary or capricious action or conduct by a public entity or an officer thereof in his or her official capacity, the complainant if he or she prevails in the civil action may collect from the public entity reasonable attorney’s fees, computed at one hundred dollars ($100) per hour, but not to exceed seven thousand five hundred dollars ($7,500), if he or she is personally obligated to pay the fees in addition to any other relief granted or other costs awarded.
(b) This section is ancillary only, and shall not be construed to create a new cause of action.
(c) The refusal by a public entity or officer thereof to admit liability pursuant to a contract of insurance shall not be considered arbitrary or capricious action or conduct within the meaning of this section.
(d) In any civil action brought by the owner of a mobilehome park, as defined in Section 798.4 of the Civil Code, pursuant to this section, to challenge the validity or application of an ordinance, rule, regulation, or initiative measure adopted by any local governmental entity that regulates space rent, or is otherwise intended to benefit or protect residents in the park, if the local governmental entity is determined to be the prevailing party, the court shall award attorney’s fees and other litigation expenses to the local governmental entity.