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Name: In re Nicole S.
Case #: A154443
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 4
Opinion Date: 08/23/2009

Attorney fees pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure Section 1021.5 are not recoverable in a dependency proceeding. Nicole, a former nonminor dependent, appealed from an order denying her motion for attorneys’ fees pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 1021.5. Nicole had sought fees for work performed by her appointed attorneys in a prior writ proceeding. She argued that her Bay Area Legal Aid attorneys were entitled to a fee award for the writ proceedings because they had enforced an important right that benefited nonminor dependents throughout the state, and had achieved an excellent result. The appellate court affirmed the order denying the attorneys’ fees, holding that section 1021.5 fees are not recoverable in a dependency proceeding. Section 1021.5 does not explicitly exclude dependency proceedings, but it is not consistent with juvenile dependency law. The financial incentives integral to section 1021.5 are unnecessary in the dependency context and could undermine existing protections to provide competent counsel to serve the best interests of children. Competent counsel in juvenile dependency matters should be capable of filing extraordinary writs within the scope of their representation.