Milpitas Ordered to Pay Legal Fees in Public Records Suit

The First Amendment Coalition (FAC) has been awarded $100,000 in attorneys’ fees in its successful public records lawsuit against Milpitas.

Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Sunil Kulkarni justified the order because of the “significant public interest” in disclosing records sought by the free speech nonprofit detailing alleged misconduct by ex-City Manager Tom Williams.

Williams will have to pay $7,750 in attorneys’ fees and costs; the city, $93,260.

The order comes five months after the coalition won the lawsuit and Kulkarni directed the city to release records pertaining to alleged wrongdoing by Williams, who was accused of using a city charge card to cover his personal legal fees. Milpitas originally withheld documents requested by San Jose Inside and the Milpitas Post because Williams filed a “reverse California Public Records Act” lawsuit to block their release.

First Amendment Coalition Executive Director David Snyder said the recent court order affirms that the city should have disclosed the documents in the first place.

“We are grateful that the court got it right here, and that the lawyers who so capably represented FAC’s—and the public’s—interest will be compensated for bringing to light records about misconduct at the highest level of city government,” he said.

James Chadwick and Julie Bauman, of Sheppard Mullin law firm, represented the First Amendment Coalition in the case.

5 Comments

  1. > The First Amendment Coalition (FAC) has been awarded $100,000 in attorneys’ fees in its successful public records lawsuit against Milpitas.

    Good enough! That’s one scalp for your belt.

    But don’t relax yet. There’s more work to be done.

    https://www.breitbart.com/tech/2018/10/09/the-good-censor-leaked-google-briefing-admits-abandonment-of-free-speech-for-safety-and-civility/

    ‘THE GOOD CENSOR’: Leaked Google Briefing Admits Abandonment of Free Speech for ‘Safety And Civility’

    Google is:
    A.) An illegal monopoly engaging in blatant restraint of trade, and
    B.) A “quasi-government organization”, funded by the CIA’s captive venture fund In-Q-Tel, and substantially controlled by government agencies, the so-called “alphabet agencies”.

    Ironically, when Google reorganized, it named its new parent company “Alphabet”. Talk about “in your face”.

    First Amendment Coalition: do your civic duty.

  2. The judge’s reasoning was interesting. He awarded attorney fees against Milpitas in the CPRA part of the case according to CPRA and against Tom Williams in the reverse-CPRA part of the case under the private attorney general statute. He declined to make them jointly and severally liable. He also dialed back the attorney fees 50% because of “unnecessary work” and “limited success” of FAC. And the losers get 90 days to pay.

    After this and the L. A. Times case, reverse-CPRA cases seem to be like Stormy Daniels’ defamation lawsuit. You lose automatically and wind up paying the other side’s attorney fees. In other words, there’s really no such thing as a reverse-CPRA lawsuit.

  3. So, we taxpayers have to pay for this law firm to sue the city for public records requests? How many hours did these two attorneys bill for this? What kind of ridiculous attorneys (and law firm) make their living like this?

    • The really nasty ones are the government attorneys with an unlimited budget to defend such illegality. Then the public has to pay for both sides.
      90 days is about when Tom Williams’s gig with Millbrae winds up. So no chance for garnishment there. FAC might be out of luck on that $7750 award.

      • That is a good point. However, aren’t government attorneys a fixed cost for us? I say keep them working longer than :). On another note, I looked into the law firm and the lawyer. The lawyer lives in Los Gatos and the law firm was recently in trouble for ethical violations by the California supreme court. Got to wonder why our city is paying for this.

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