In Marine Forests Society v. California Coastal Commission, ___ Cal.App.4th ___ (Mar. 4, 2008), the Court of Appeal (Third Appellate District) reversed an order awarding attorneys' fees under the private attorney general doctrine of Code of Civil Procedure section 1021.5. Greg May has a more detailed post on the decision at The California Blog of Appeal.
On a related note, the Supreme Court is currently considering Vasquez v. State of California, no. S143710 (review granted 08/16/06), in which the issue on review is as follows:
Does the rule that, in order to receive attorney fees under Code of Civil Procedure section 1021.5, the plaintiff must first reasonably attempt to settle the matter short of litigation, apply to [cases other than catalyst theory cases]? (See Graham v. DaimlerChrysler Corp. (2004) 34 Cal.4th 553, 557; Grimsley v. Board of Supervisors (1985) 169 Cal.App.3d 960, 966-967.)
The Court of Appeal determined that the party opposing the fee award waived the issue by not raising it below. Vasquez v. State of California, 138 Cal.App.4th 550 (2006) (Fourth Appellate District, Division Two) (slip op. at 18-19).