When you apply for an award of attorney fees under Code of Civil Procedure §1021.5, your standard fee is not the relevant measure. That is the lesson of this week’s ruling by the Fifth District Court of Appeal in Nichols v. City of Taft.
The standard for calculating the “lodestar” under section 1021.5 is not the rate the attorney charges. Instead, “[t]he lodestar figure is calculated using the reasonable rates for comparable legal services in the local community for noncontingent litigation of the same type…” (emphsis in original).
Out of town attorneys can get their higher standard fee only by establishing that local counsel is not available for the case. Thus, in this action, the San Francisco attorneys will have to settle for Kern County rates — unless they can convince the trial court to add a multiplier on remand.