Judge Denies Madison Square Garden Motions for Public Records,
Rules Inglewood and Mayor Butts Complied With the Law
LOS ANGELES (May 2, 2019) – The City of Inglewood today scored a legal victory in its battle with MSG Forum after Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mary Strobel rejected allegations by Forum attorneys that the city and Mayor James T. Butts failed to fully comply with the California Public Records Act.
Judge Strobel’s ruling marked the third unsuccessful attempt by MSG Forum to secure a writ of mandate against the city and Mayor Butts for purportedly failing to turn over everything Forum attorneys requested in a June 2017 public records request relating to an Exclusive Negotiating Agreement between the city and Los Angeles Clippers. The NBA team is proposing to build an 18,0000-seat arena in Inglewood.
The court blocked similar requests in October 2018 and January 2019. This time, MSG’s attorneys targeted Mayor Butts personally, accusing him of failing to comply with the order and asked the court for a declaration saying he had violated the law.
Judge Strobel flatly rejected MSG’s request, finding that the city acted reasonably to the public records request.
“On the merits, Petitioner does not show that a declaration against Mayor Butts
is justified by the CPRA, relevant case law, or the facts of this case,” she wrote.
The lawsuit is one of six that MSG Forum and related groups have filed against the city as tactics to delay, if not derail, formal consideration of the Clippers Arena, which would represent a competing concert venue.
Judge rejected all of MSG’s requested relief, but found that it was the prevailing party for purposes of attorneys’ fees, only because the City produced a handful of documents after the lawsuit was filed.
However, Judge Strobel found that MSG’s request for attorneys’ fees was unreasonable and included duplication and inefficient billing by MSG’s lawyers, Latham & Watkins and O’Melveny. The judge slashed MSG’s request for more than $700,000 in fees, cutting it by 80%, to $166,000.
“The court agrees that, for the legal issues presented, it was unreasonable to use 10 attorneys on this matter,” Judge Strobel wrote. “The question of the reasonableness of City’s search was not particularly complex or novel. It was inefficient for Petitioner to use more than three attorneys on this matter.”