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Walent v. Commission on Professional Competence of Los Angeles Unified School District

California Court of Appeals, Second District, Seventh Division

February 21, 2017

NANCIE WALENT, Petitioner and Respondent,
v.
COMMISSION ON PROFESSIONAL COMPETENCE OF THE LOS ANGELES UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT, Respondent; LOS ANGELES UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT, Real Party in Interest and Appellant

         APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, No. BS149077, James C. Chalfant, Judge.

Page 746

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 747

         COUNSEL

         Bergman Dacey Goldsmith, Gregory M. Bergman, Michele M. Goldsmith and Jason J. Barbato for Real Party in Interest and Appellant.

         Trygstad, Schwab & Trygstad, Shanon Dawn Trygstad and Daniel J. Kolodziej for Petitioner and Respondent.

         Opinion by Zelon, J., with Perluss, P. J., and Keeny, J.[*], concurring.

          OPINION

          [214 Cal.Rptr.3d 892] ZELON, J.

          Appellant Los Angeles Unified School District appeals an award of attorney's fees to Respondent Nancie Walent, after her successful challenge of her dismissal from employment. Although Appellant asserts the trial court erred in its determination of reasonable attorney's fees, we find neither legal error nor an abuse of discretion in the trial court's determination. Accordingly, we affirm.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL SUMMARY

         The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) sought to dismiss Nancie Walent from her employment in 2012. She sought and received a hearing before the Commission on Professional Competence of the Los Angeles Unified School District (Commission). [214 Cal.Rptr.3d 893] In 2013, the Commission ruled in her favor.

         Pursuant to Education Code section 44944, subdivision (f),[1] Walent sought a writ of mandate to recover her attorney's fees. LAUSD did not dispute her right to recover fees, but argued that those fees were limited to the amounts set forth in Walent's fee agreement with her counsel.

Page 748

         After a series of discovery disputes, as to which appellant raises no challenge, both parties filed briefs on the petition. The court considered and ruled on evidentiary objections, and heard argument on June 2, 2015. The court entered judgment on July 7, 2015, and issued the writ of mandate on August 21, 2015. The court determined that a lodestar calculation was the appropriate mechanism to determine the reasonable fees to be recovered ( Ketchum v. Moses (2001) 24 Cal.4th 1122 [104 Cal.Rptr.2d 377, 17 P.3d 735] ( Ketchum )) and that the rates Walent requested were reasonable market rates. The court overruled LAUSD's objections to specific portions of the rates and costs, and awarded Walent $199,817 plus costs. LAUSD appeals that determination.[2]

         DISCUSSION

         The sole issue on appeal is the amount of attorney's fees awarded to Walent. LAUSD asserts that the Education Code limits her recovery to fees actually incurred, which precludes the lodestar analysis performed by the trial court. Walent disputes this interpretation of the statute, and ...


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