Southern Cal. School of Theology v. Claremont Graduate University (May 3, 2021, B302452) 2021 WL1731232

This was the second appeal arising from efforts by GMSR’s client, the Claremont Colleges, to enforce the buy-back terms of a 1957 land sale agreement with the Claremont School of Theology (CST). (See first appeal.) Although the Colleges prevailed overall, CST recovered fees for an issue on which it prevailed. On appeal, GMSR, on behalf of the Colleges, argued that in apportioning CST’s fees to account for its limited success, the trial court abused its discretion in (1) basing its award on a supposed concession by the Colleges that they did not in fact make, and (2) ruling that it had no discretion to apportion fees by using an across-the-board “negative multiplier,” even though CST’s heavily-redacted and block-billed invoices precluded any other method of apportionment.

The Court of Appeal reversed, holding that the trial court abused its discretion by failing to recognize that it did have discretion to apply a negative multiplier. The Court also found error in trial court’s reliance on the Colleges’ nonexistent “concession.” It directed the trial court to reconsider its ruling in light of its actual authority to apply a negative multiplier to account for block-billed or redacted time records.

See the Court of Appeal Opinion.