The Purpose of Attorney Fee-Shifting Provision in California

In Ketchum v. Moses (2001) 24 Cal.4th 1122, the California Supreme Court outlined the purpose of attorney fee-shifting provision: "The fee-shifting provision was apparently intended to discourage such strategic lawsuits against public participation by imposing the litigation costs on the party seeking to 'chill the valid exercise of the constitutional rights of freedom of speech and petition for the redress of grievances.' The fee-shifting provision also encourages private representation in SLAPP cases, including situations when a SLAPP defendant is unable to afford fees or the lack of potential monetary damages precludes a standard contingency fee arrangement." The Ketchum court held that a trial court must make a "'careful compilation of the time spent and reasonable hourly compensation of each attorney . . . involved in the presentation of the case.' " (Ketchum, supra, 24 Cal.4th at pp. 1131-1132.) In Weber v. Langholz (1995) 39 Cal.App.4th 1578, 1587 , defense counsel submitted a request for attorney fees that included a declaration as to his hourly rate, the total amount of fees sought, and a summary of the work performed. The Weber court rejected plaintiff's argument that the defendant's fee request provided insufficient information on which to base an attorney fee award: "Plaintiff complains that counsel did not state the total number of hours nor substantiate the hours or amounts with copies of time records or copies of billing statements. Counsel's declaration and verified cost memorandum were, however, made under penalty of perjury. Mathematical calculation could show the number of hours was between 90 and 103. The work done was described. The trial court could make its own evaluation of the reasonable worth of the work done in light of the nature of the case, and of the credibility of counsel's declaration unsubstantiated by time records and billing statements. Although a fee request ordinarily should be documented in great detail, it cannot be said in this particular case that the absence of time records and billing statements deprived the trial court of substantial evidence to support an award; we do not reweigh the evidence." (Ibid.) Code of Civil Procedure Section 425.16, subdivision (c) provides: "In any action subject to an anti-SLAPP motion, a prevailing defendant on a special motion to strike shall be entitled to recover his or her attorney's fees and costs."