Last week, the Impact Fund and fifteen fellow public interest legal organizations, including the Equal Justice Society, filed an amicus brief in the California Court of Appeals defending plaintiffs’ right to catalyst fees in public interest lawsuits in the case Direct Action Everywhere v. Diestel Turkey Ranch.
“Catalyst fees” are one type of attorneys’ fees designed to compensate attorney time spent on public interest lawsuits that catalyze a change in the defendant’s behavior.
Direct Action moved for catalyst fees in the case – a motion the court denied. If the trial court’s reasoning is allowed to stand, courts could withhold fees simply because an organizational plaintiff files mission-aligned litigation or acts in a manner that displeases them, from issuing press releases to engaging in protests or policy advocacy, regardless of whether those acts violate any law or have any effect on the litigation. This is not what the legislature or supreme court intended.
Our brief describes California’s decades-long recognition of the role of attorneys’ fees in encouraging private enforcement of the state’s civil rights laws. California courts have long recognized that catalyst fees are key to encouraging public interest litigation, and the Impact Fund and amici continue to defend the proper catalyst fee analysis.
In addition to EJS, the Impact Fund brief was joined by: American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California; American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California; Centro Legal de la Raza; Disability Rights Advocates; Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund; Law Foundation of Silicon Valley; Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area; Legal Aid Association of California; Legal Aid at Work; Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County; Public Counsel; Public Interest Law Project; Western Center on Law and Poverty; and Worksafe.
Learn more at impactfund.org.