Finally, two cases involving public entities litigating against one another also make clear that the “individual stake” of the plaintiff entity can be a non-monetary one, e.g., road closures or environmental interests. (See City of Hawaiian Gardens v. City of Long B e a c h ( 1 9 9 8 ) 6 1 C a l . A p p . 4 t h 1 1 0 0 , 1 1 1 2 - 1 1 1 3 , 3 a n d C o u n t y o f I n y o v . C i t y o f L o Angeles, supra, 78 Cal.App.3d at pp. 88-90.) s 4
On rehearing, appellant cites Press v. Lucky Stores, Inc. (1983) 34 Cal.3d 311, 321 (Press), as critical authority in support of his argument that the “individual stake” a litigant is advancing must be pecuniary in order to preclude a recovery of attorneys’ fees. Press was an appeal from a superior court’s award of attorneys’ fees to litigants who secured an injunction against Lucky Stores, which had sought to preclude them from collecting signatures from store patrons in an effort to qualify an initiative for the ballot. The successful litigants were the appellants, who argued that the trial court abused its d i s c r e t i o n b y g r a n t i n g t h e m t o o l i t t l e b y w a y o f a t t o r n e y s ’ f e e s . 5 T h e c o u r t p r i n c i p a l l discussed two issues in the course of its 10-page majority opinion: (1) whether the appellants’ action had conferred a “significant benefit” to the public, i.e., satisfied the second statutory requirement, and (2) whether the trial court erred in its method of y
3 Appellant protests that this case is distinguishable because it involved a suit between two public entities.
He notes, correctly, that section 1021.5 expressly contemplates such litigation by its use of the clause “or of enforcement by one public entity against another public entity . . . .” (§ 1021.5, subd. (b).) However, that clause only clarifies that the litigation does not have to be strictly “private enforcement” to qualify for an award. The clause does not modify the statutory language which triggers the “third requirement” at issue here, to wit, that the “necessity and financial burden”--of whichever enforcement is involved--be “such as to make the award appropriate.” (Ibid.)
4 It was this opinion, after all, that our Supreme Court relied upon so heavily in its 1979 Woodland Hills
decision in defining the “third requirement.” And in the County of Inyo decision, which applied the “private attorney general doctrine” as it existed prior to the effective date of section 1021.5, the court of appeal made clear that the private interest of the litigant may be far broader than an economic one: “Inyo County went to court as champion of local environmental values, which it sought to preserve for the benefit of its present and future inhabitants. This action is not a ‘public interest’ lawsuit in the sense that it is waged for values other than the petitioner's. The litigation is self-serving. The victory won by the county in 1977 bulked large enough to warrant the cost of winning it. The necessity for enforcement by Inyo County did not place on it ‘a burden out of proportion to [its] individual stake in the matter.’ [Citation.]” (County of Inyo v. City of Los Angeles, supra, 78 Cal.App.3d at p. 90.)
5 More precisely, the issue was whether the trial court should have followed the “lodestar adjustment”
method mandated by Serrano v. Priest (1977) 20 Cal.3d 25. (See Press, supra, 34 Cal.3d at pp. 317, 321-325.)