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City's Press Release on Award of Attorneys Fees to CTA

A press release from the city of San Juan Capistrano

On February 18th, Judge Franz E. Miller awarded the Capistrano Taxpayer’s Association (“CTA”) attorney fees for its recent water rate lawsuit against the City. CTA originally requested $422,120.00 in fees from City’s ratepayers, seeking the equivalent of $800.00 per hour (a $400.00 per hour rate with a 2.0 multiplier) for its work on the case.

After considering the City’s opposition, the Judge declined to award CTA that amount and instead awarded a little over one-half, i.e., the reduced sum of $237,242.00. The City appealed the underlying judgment on September 
6, 2013. The City maintains that the underlying judgment ought to be reversed and that CTA therefore ultimately should not receive any fee award.

No decision has been made on whether to appeal the decision on the fee award itself.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

concerned parent February 20, 2014 at 09:17 PM
Just curious if that's a typical water bill for SJC, or something really out of the ordinary, or for a huge property? I'm in a different city and the most we've ever paid is $36 a month.
Clint Worthington February 20, 2014 at 09:37 PM
Concerned Parent, a water bill for that amount is not unusual at all. The Orange County Superior Court has ruled that those water rates are illegal and forbid the City from sending out water bills until the City could produce a legal water rate that complied with Proposition 218 of the California State Constitution. The City subsequently appealed the Superior Court ruling. The attorney fees for the appeal are expected to be around 2 million dollars. Presently, the City owes the water users approximately 30 million dollars in illegal water charges. As a claim has already been filed for that amount with the City, I would anticipate a class action lawsuit to be filed to return that money to the water users as the City is not doing it voluntarily.
Penny Arévalo (Editor) February 20, 2014 at 10:30 PM
I don't know if it's average, but it's my bill. I have a quarter acre with little hardscape besides the house and long driveway. So you tell me.
Donna Fleming February 20, 2014 at 10:31 PM
That water bill is normal for SJC, and has been for at least 3 years. I have in Long Beach and their bill is typically 60.00 a month. Our bills are out of sight and not affordable. We need a refund. The city does not want to issue refunds or revise their billing system. They (city council), chose to appeal the court decision.
Clint Worthington February 20, 2014 at 10:42 PM
My water bill runs about $114.00 a month give or take a few dollars.. SFR for the four of us. No lawn, just shrubs and trees. My neighbors with larger lots have water bills about the same as yours Penny. It is not uncommon to see much larger water bills into the $750.00 to 1,500.00 range because they get into the higher water tiers.
concerned parent February 20, 2014 at 10:50 PM
You all have a LOT more land than we do, so that's part of the difference. But it still seems excessive. Certainly my vote would be in favor of consumers and for abiding by a court ruling that favors the taxpayers of SJC.
Clint Worthington February 20, 2014 at 11:03 PM
Concerned Parent, I share your concerns regarding abiding by the court ruling. As the Superior Court Ruling against the City was based on a case heard previously by the appellate court (City of Palmdale vs. Palmdale Water), in order to appeal a ruling that is already case law, will require a couple of million dollars more in legal fees, with most likely the same result.
Donna Fleming February 20, 2014 at 11:19 PM
Concerned, a quarter of an acre is typical for my older neighborhood. My bill is about the same as Penny's. Older homes have larger lots. But, it also relates to how many people at home. I still do not understand why my bill went up when my sons went off to college. That was over 6 years ago. It has steadily gone up, while all the other utilities went down. But water is my highest bill.
Sunshine February 21, 2014 at 01:12 PM
More egregious and wasteful attorney fees racked up by the council majority, Sam Allevato, Larry Kramer, and John Taylor. Do not vote for John or Larry in November's election. Councilmen Derek Reeve and Roy Byrnes are not responsible for the illegal water bills and did not choose to fight this in court. The costs are totally the responsibility and outcome of Sam, Larry, and John's actions.
quercus February 21, 2014 at 10:59 PM
In most circumstances where life gives you lemons, making lemonade is a good next step. However, with the cost of water in San Juan that's not practical. The city opted for this press release instead.

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