Justia Legal Ethics Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Utilities Law
Startley General Contractors, Inc. v. Water Works Board of the City of Birmingham et al.
Plaintiffs Startley General Contractors, Inc. ("Startley"), and Mandy Powrzanas, appealed the denial of their renewed motion to have Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Robert Vance, Jr. recuse himself from the underlying action the plaintiffs filed against the Water Works Board of the City of Birmingham ("BWWB"), Board members, Jones Utility and Contracting Co., Inc., and Richard Jones (collectively, “defendants.”). Plaintiffs alleged the defendants conspired to violate Alabama's competitive-bid law in ways that resulted in financial harm to the plaintiffs. Plaintiffs contended that Judge Vance had received monetary contributions to his 2018 campaign for Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court from law firms and attorneys representing the defendants. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded the renewed motion to recuse did not fall under the auspices of section 12–24–3, Ala. Code 1975, because it was not based on campaign contributions in "the immediately preceding election." Moreover, “even if [section] 12–24–3 did apply, the plaintiffs failed to establish a rebuttable presumption for recusal because, in order to meet the required threshold, the plaintiffs: (1) included contributions from law firms and individuals who were not ‘parties,’ as that term is defined in 12–24–3(c), to the case; (2) aggregated campaign contributions from multiple parties in contravention to 12–24–3(b) addressing campaign contributions made by ‘a party to the judge or justice’; and (3) incorrectly assumed that ‘total campaign contributions raised during the election cycle’ refers to one-month totals for campaign contributions rather than the ordinary meaning of an ‘election cycle,’ which concerns a longer period.” The Court concluded plaintiffs did not establish that a single, actual "party" to this case gave a "substantial campaign contribution" that would give rise to the conclusion that "[a] reasonable person would perceive that [Judge Vance's] ability to carry out his ... judicial responsibilities with impartiality is impaired." View "Startley General Contractors, Inc. v. Water Works Board of the City of Birmingham et al." on Justia Law
New Cingular Wireless PCS, LLC v. Public Utilities Commission
In 2016, the court of appeal held that if the advocacy of an intervenor contributes to a California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) proceeding by assisting CPUC in the making of any order or decision (Pub. Util. Code 1802(i))) that is part of the final resolution of the proceeding, whether or not on the merits, CPUC may determine whether, in its judgment, the intervenor’s contribution was substantial enough to merit a compensation award. The court of appeal vacated CPUC's subsequent award. CPUC's determination of “substantial contribution” to some interim or procedural “order or decision” is not alone, sufficient to justify "awarding every penny" claimed for work in connection with the proceeding as a whole. CPUC needed to show how its findings fit into the statutory requirement that compensable work be traceable to some “order or decision,” which is a measure of whether an intervenor achieved some degree of advocacy success. CPUC retains ample discretion to assess whether a given type of contribution counts as “substantial” in a proceeding. In exercising that discretion, CPUC may recognize that even small victories may have a major impact on the course of a proceeding, but there must still be some objective indication of successful advocacy. The remand decisions did not trace the amounts of fees and costs to specific orders or decisions. View "New Cingular Wireless PCS, LLC v. Public Utilities Commission" on Justia Law