The City of San Luis Obispo is playing hardball with two local attorneys, just days after a superior court judge ordered the city to award them fees related to fighting last year’s crackdown on sleeping overnight in vehicles.
San Luis Obispo County Superior Court Judge Charles Crandall ruled Jan. 17 that attorneys Stew Jenkins and Saro Rizzo were working in the public interest when the city settled its lawsuit with the SLO Homeless Alliance on Aug. 9, 2012. The attorneys originally took the case pro-bono.
The settlement led to the city expunging 99 citations, rewriting the parking ordinance, and posting signage.
On Jan. 17, Crandall awarded the attorneys $133,880 of the $150,000 originally sought, noting that the city paid more than $130,000 to contract legal services from an Oakland firm.
That amount is to come from the city’s general fund.
“[G]eneral doctrine makes it clear that attorneys in the community who take on important public interest litigation, with no guarantee of receiving a penny unless they win, are to be paid adequate compensation for their services if they achieve significant results,” Crandall wrote.
Following a Jan. 22 closed session meeting, City Attorney Christine Dietrick reported that the council voted 4-1, with Mayor Jan Marx opposing, to offer the attorneys half of the award with a promise not to appeal Crandall’s decision, if the attorneys relinquish the other half to the Community Action Partnership of SLO, the nonprofit that provides homeless services in the county and operates the Prado Day Center in San Luis Obispo.
The attorneys hadn’t responded to the council action as of press time.