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Litigation We’re Watching

Travis v. Brand – (CA Supreme Court, No. S268480). On January 30, 2022, the California Supreme Court held that defendants prevailing in lawsuits against them under the Political Reform Act may only recover attorney’s fees if the court finds that the “action was objectively without foundation when brought, or the plaintiff continued to litigate after it clearly became so.” The Court reasoned that while defending against meritorious actions is a normal cost to political participation, imposing the asymmetrical standard favoring prevailing plaintiffs when awarding attorney’s fees will maximize “the number of meritorious suits through the Political Reform Act’s private enforcement mechanism.” The Court’s holding is inline with earlier interpretations of similar attorney’s fees statutes in fair housing and employment laws.

News from Election and Ethics Agencies

Fair Political Practices Commission News – During the February meeting of the Fair Political Practices Commission, Commissioners will be discussing new and amended regulations reflecting the changes in law as a result of SB 1439. Section 84308 now places limitations on certain public officials’ ability to take part in licensing, permitting, and other use entitlement proceedings when a party or participant in the proceeding has contributed more than $250 to the official; the statute also prohibits officials from receiving contributions exceeding $250 during such a proceeding and for a defined period after a final decision in the proceeding.

New Legislation

State Legislation – February 17 is the last day for bills to be introduced. AB 292: requires, for any nonpartisan ballot provided to a voter who has declined to disclose a political party preference for use in a presidential primary election, that a space be provided on the ballot for the voter to write in the name of a candidate who has been nominated by a party that authorizes such voters to vote in its primary election.