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computing the award. As to both issues, the majority, led by Chief Justice Bird, agreed with the appellant.

However, in the course of its opinion, the majority referred, in a single brief paragraph, to the statutory requirement at issue here: “Plaintiffs’ action also fulfills section 1021.5’s mandate that ‘the necessity and financial burden of private enforcement [be] such as to make the award appropriate.’ This requirement focuses on the financial burdens and incentives involved in bringing the lawsuit. Since plaintiffs had no pecuniary interest in the outcome of the litigation, ‘the financial burden in this case [was] such that an attorney fee award [was] appropriate in order to assure the effectuation of an important public policy.’ (Woodland Hills, supra, 23 Cal.3d at p. 942.).” (Press, supra, 34 Cal.3d at p. 321, fn. omitted.)

In a footnote to this paragraph, the court elaborated on the nature of the “personal interest” of the litigant: “That plaintiffs’ personal interests in the outcome of the oil profits initiative were sufficient to induce them to bring this action is irrelevant. As the statute makes clear, subdivision (b) of section 1021.5 focuses not on plaintiffs' abstract personal stake, but on the financial incentives and burdens related to bringing suit. Indeed, in the absence of some concrete personal interest in the issue being litigated, the putative plaintiff would lack standing to bring an action.” (Press, supra, 34 Cal.3d at p. 321, fn. 11.)

Appellant argues that the Press court’s use of the terms “pecuniary interest” and “financial incentives” supports his position that, inasmuch as he never at any time contended to the trial court that he had an “economic,” “pecuniary” or “financial” interest in preventing the new 2617 Sutter building from going forward, that court erred in finding that his personal interest in the outcome outweighed any public benefit. The interest he successfully asserted below, he now argues, falls under the heading of an “abstract personal stake” which, as the Press footnote makes clear, does not disqualify its holder from an attorneys’ fee award.


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