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Governor Vetoes Attorney's Fee Bill for Fair Employment & Housing Cases

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has vetoed AB 2773, which would have provided for prevailing plaintiffs to recover attorney's fees and costs even if they recovered less than the jurisdiction limit of the court in which their case was filed.

Existing law provides that a prevailing party is entitled as a matter of right to recover costs in any action or proceeding, and specifies those items allowable as costs. It also provides that costs, or any portion of claimed costs, shall be as determined by the court, in its discretion, in a case other than a limited civil case, if the prevailing party recovers a judgment that could have been rendered in a limited civil case. In other words, if the award does not exceed $25,000. AB 2773 would exempt this limitation for plaintiffs prevailing in actions brought under a specified provision of the Fair Employment and Housing Act alleging an unlawful practice.

The Governor's veto message reads:

To the Members of the California State Assembly:

I am returning Assembly Bill 2773 without my signature.

This measure would require an award of attorney’s fees in all fair employment and housing cases even when nominal damages are awarded and even if the case was improperly filed in a court of unlimited jurisdiction. While there may be instances when an award of attorneys fees may be proper, this measure removes all discretion from a judge and encourages frivolous lawsuits.

For this reason, I am unable to sign this bill..

These vetoes offer some insight as to why employment attorneys are not embracing Meg Whitman's candidacy.

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