Go Figure: Anti-Golf Activists Now Want San Francisco to Pay $1.3 Million Legal Fees

Anti-Golf activists ask Federal Court for $1.3 Million fee award for their losing efforts in Sharp Park lawsuit - San Francisco, CA

          In a curious twist in the long-running fight between anti-golf activists and San Francisco over the fate of the city’s historic public Sharp Park Golf Course, the Tucson-based Center for Biological Diversity, Wild Equity Institute, and a handful of other groups filed a motion here today in Federal Court, asking the same Federal Judge who dismissed their lawsuit in December, 2012 to order the City of San Francisco to pay their legal bill of more than $1.3 Million.

          “It’s a head-scratcher,” mused San Francisco attorney Bo Links, co-founder of the San Francisco Public Golf Alliance, which has led the golfers’ fight to preserve the 80-year-old seaside golf links, designed by legendary architect Alister MacKenzie.  “The plaintiffs swung and missed, and seem to think they won the Open.” 

          The fee motion was filed in Wild Equity Institute, Center for Biological Diversity, et al. vs. City and County of San Francisco, U.S.District Court, Northern District of California, No. 11-cv-956 SI, in which the plaintiff groups filed suit under the Endangered Species Act, alleging that golf operations are killing federally-protected California red-legged frogs and San Francisco garter snakes.  The Plaintffs sought a Court order closing golf operations at the popular public course, owned by San Francisco but located in the southern beachside suburb of Pacifica, CA.

          Federal Judge Susan Illston on December 6, 2012 dismissed the Lawsuit, and the Plaintiffs have since filed an appeal.  Judge Illston had previously in November, 2011 denied the Plaintiffs’ motion for a Preliminary Injunction to halt golf operations, and in April, 2012 denied the Plaintiffs’ summary judgment motion.

          The Plaintiffs’ fee motion was filed under a provision of the Endangered Species Act that authorizes the Courts to award legal fees “whenever the Court determines such award is appropriate”.  Plaintiffs seek payment for more than 2,000 hours of attorneys time, most of which are billed at hourly rates between $550 and $750. 

          “This is environmental litigation in Wonderland,” said Links of the Public Golf Alliance.  “Plaintiffs bring suit to close the golf course that created the freshwater conditions that enabled the frog and snake to come in the first place.  Then they lose every motion they file, and their case is thrown out.  And now they want the Court to order the City to pay their attorney’s fees?  How can this possibly be an “appropriate” case for a fee award?  It’s a request that boggles the mind, especially given the City’s efforts, which began long before this lawsuit was filed, to do the right thing by the species and golfers who together inhabit this wonderful place.”

          A hearing on the plaintiffs’ motion is currently scheduled for May 10, 2013.

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For more information, contact:

Richard Harris

San Francisco Public Golf Alliance



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