As I previously reported, in April, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Jack Komar ruled that a public entity (specifically, the County of Santa Clara) may not hire private lawyers to represent it on a contingency-fee basis. County of Santa Clara v. Atlantic Richfield Co., Santa Clara County Superior Court case no. 1-00-CV-788657, Order Regarding Defendants' Motion to Bar Payment of Contingent Fees to Private Attorneys, April 4, 2007.
On May 11, 2007, the County of Santa Clara filed a writ petition, and on June 28, 2007, the Court of Appeal (Sixth Appellate District) issued an Order to Show Cause. County of Santa Clara v. Superior Court (ARCO), no. H031540.
This is an interesting case because it could affect the ability of counties and other public entities to retain private lawyers to handle UCL cases on their behalf. This has become much more important since Proposition 64, which limited the ability of private parties to bring public enforcement actions under the UCL. See, e.g., Barbara M. Motz, "Problems in Partnering With Public Prosecutors," 14 Competition 55 (2005) (members-only link).
Many thanks to Santa Clara County Counsel Ann Miller Ravel for providing copies of these briefs from the writ proceeding:
Petition for Writ of Mandate (filed 05/11/07)
Return by Real Parties in Interest to Petition for Writ of Mandate (filed 07/30/07)
Petitioners' Reply to Real Parties' Return (filed 08/20/07)
Amicus Curiae Brief of the Association of California Water Agencies (filed 08/29/07)
The primary authority on which Judge Komar relied, and which most of the briefs attempt to distinguish, is People ex rel. Clancy v. Superior Court, 39 Cal.3d 740 (1985). This case is also discussed in the article by Supervising Deputy Attorney General Motz.