PEOPLE v. TAYLOR No. C062413.
197 Cal.App.4th 757 (2011)
THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. JACKIE DELBERT TAYLOR, Defendant and Appellant.
Court of Appeals of California, Third District.
July 19, 2011.
Edmund G. Brown, Jr., Attorney General, Dane R. Gillette, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Michael P. Farrell, Assistant Attorney General, Catherine Chatman and Raymond L. Brosterhous II, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.
CERTIFIED FOR PARTIAL PUBLICATION
Penal Code section 1202.4, subdivision (f)(3)(H) authorizes restitution for "[a]ctual and reasonable attorney's fees" incurred by the victim as a result of the defendant's criminal conduct. This appeal addresses whether a court may order restitution for a contingency fee paid by the victim without first determining whether the fee was reasonable under the lodestar method for calculating attorney fees. In the published part of this opinion, we disagree with the decision of Division One of the Fourth District Court of Appeal in People v. Millard (2009)
On July 29, 2007, defendant Jackie Delbert Taylor crossed a double yellow line while trying to pass another vehicle, had a head-on collision, and fled the scene before emergency personnel arrived. Defendant's victim, Kevin Bailey, sustained significant injuries to his arm and his car was totaled.
Defendant pled no contest to hit and run causing injury (Veh. Code, § 20001, subd. (a)), admitted a "strike" (Pen. Code, §§ 1170.12, subds. (a)-(d), 667, subds. (b)-(i)),
The trial court sentenced defendant to six years in prison, suspended proceedings pursuant to section 3051 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, and committed defendant to the California Rehabilitation Center (CRC). The trial court subsequently determined defendant's strike rendered him ineligible
Defendant appeals, challenging the award of victim restitution for attorney fees and the trial court's calculation of presentence credits.
Section 1202.4 is one such enactment. Pursuant to subdivision (f), the "court shall require" a defendant to make restitution to the victim for all economic losses incurred by the victim as a result of the defendant's criminal conduct. Applying the constitutional right to restitution, the statute mandates: "The court shall order full restitution unless it finds compelling and extraordinary reasons for not doing so, and states them on the record." (Ibid.) The language from section 1202.4, subdivision (f), is taken from the California Constitution's guarantee of victim restitution, California Constitution, article I, former section 28, subdivision (b)(13), which stated: "Restitution shall be ordered from the convicted persons in every case, regardless of the sentence or disposition imposed, in which a crime victim suffers a loss, unless compelling and extraordinary reasons exist to the contrary." This was amended by Proposition 9 in 2008, and now reads as follows: "Restitution shall be ordered from the convicted wrongdoer in every case, regardless of the sentence or disposition imposed, in which a crime victim suffers a loss." (Cal. Const., art. I, § 28, subd. (b)(13).) As amended, the California Constitution now requires trial courts to order victim restitution whenever the victim suffers a loss.
Evidence was presented at the restitution hearing that Bailey incurred $8,333.33 in attorney fees as a result of the hit-and-run accident, a contingency fee of 33 1/3 percent of his settlement from the insurance company. The trial court included compensation for the contingency fee in its restitution order.
We review a challenge to the amount of victim restitution for abuse of discretion. (People v. Baker (2005)
Defendant's claim is based on Millard, a driving under the influence case with serious injuries, where the victim obtained a $1.1 million settlement from the defendant's insurance company, and paid his attorney a $366,666 contingency fee. (Millard, supra, 175 Cal.App.4th at pp. 13, 20-21.) After taking testimony on the contingency fee, the trial court in Millard determined the victim's attorney spent between 100 and 200 hours on the case, for an hourly fee of at least $1,833, which it characterized as an "unconscionable'" fee for such a "`slam dunk'" case. (Id. at p. 22.) Nonetheless, the trial court ruled it did not have the "`right or jurisdiction to interfere with the contingent fee arrangement between the victim and his counsel,'" and ordered restitution for the contingent fee, prorated to exclude the portion of the fee attributed to the award for pain and suffering. (Id. at pp. 22-23.)
The Court of Appeal in Millard found the trial court's award of attorney fees was an abuse of discretion "because it either: (1) awarded attorney fees it found were unconscionable/unreasonable; or (2) even if it implicitly found those fees were reasonable based solely on the contingency fee agreement, it did not apply the correct legal standard in determining the amount of reasonable attorney fees." (Millard, supra, 175 Cal.App.4th at p. 31.)
The Millard court concluded the trial court erred by not applying the lodestar method for calculating attorney fees. (Millard, supra, 175 Cal.App.4th
Applying this rule, the Court of Appeal declared: "A court `may not determine a "reasonable" attorney fee solely by reference to the amount due under a contingency agreement.' [Citation.] Rather, a court must begin with the lodestar calculation and then make adjustments upward or downward based on the factors discussed in Ketchum[v. Moses (2001)
We agree with Millard's first holding. A crime victim is entitled to restitution only for "[a]ctual and reasonable attorney's fees . . . ." (§ 1202.4, subd. (f)(3)(H).) The trial court in Millard ignored the Legislature's directive and awarded restitution for attorney fees which it had found were "`unconscionable'" in a "`slam dunk'" case. This was an abuse of discretion.
However, we decline to follow Millard's alternative holding. Millard relied on Ketchum v. Moses, supra,
The lodestar method is a fee-shifting mechanism applied in contexts such as civil litigation which confers a "`significant benefit'" to the public (Press v. Lucky Stores, Inc. (1983)
The attorney fee awards addressed in Ketchum, Serrano, and related cases are intended to encourage litigation which benefits the public or discourage litigation contrary to the public interest. Fee awards in these cases must be finely tuned so that litigation is neither excessively encouraged nor discouraged. Victim restitution for attorney fees is not intended to encourage or discourage litigation; the civil case in which the victim incurs attorney fees is separate from the criminal case where the restitution is awarded. Instead, victim restitution for attorney fees is intended to make the victim whole.
A crime victim who seeks redress for his injuries in a civil suit can expect to pay counsel with a contingency fee. "[I]t is a rare personal injury plaintiff who has the assets to pay for legal representation on an hourly basis plus costs, and also has the willingness to assume the financial risk of not prevailing in the lawsuit. For this reason, almost all plaintiff retainer agreements in personal injury actions are on a contingency fee basis, with the lawyer's fees and costs to be paid from a judgment in favor of the client, and the lawyer receiving nothing if the client loses the lawsuit." (Gilman v. Dalby (2009)
The Millard decision noted the lodestar calculation took into account the contingent nature of a claim, which could justify "`a fee enhancement, or so-called multiplier, for contingent risk.'" (Millard, supra, 175 Cal.App.4th at p. 32, quoting Ketchum, supra, 24 Cal.4th at p. 1132.) As we have already explained, this method is not intended to compensate crime victims for their losses, but is a fee-shifting mechanism in civil litigation beneficial to the public, employed to "bring the financial incentives for attorneys enforcing important constitutional [or other] rights . . . into line with incentives they have to undertake claims for which they are paid on a fee-for-services basis." (Ketchum, supra, 24 Cal.4th at p. 1132.)
"[A] wrongdoer in criminal cases as in civil torts takes his victim as he finds him." (People v. Cameron (1975)
The judgment is modified to reflect that defendant is entitled to 670 days of conduct credit, consisting of 544 days' local time and 126 days' conduct credit. As modified, the judgment is affirmed. The trial court is directed to amend the abstract of judgment to reflect this modification and to forward a certified copy of the amended abstract to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Hull, J., and Robie, J., concurred.
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