Richmond Compassionate Care Collective v. 7 Stars Holistic Foundation, 031519 CAAPP1, A154581

Docket Nº:A154581
Opinion Judge:Richman, Acting P.J.
Party Name:RICHMOND COMPASSIONATE CARE COLLECTIVE, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. 7 STARS HOLISTIC FOUNDATION et al., Defendants and Respondents
Attorney:Attorney for Plaintiff and Appellant Richmond Compassionate Care Collective: Foreman & Brasso, Ronald D. Foreman; Attorney for Defendants and Respondents 7 Stars Holistic Foundation, Inc.; Zeaad Handoush: Losch & Erlich, Joseph J. Erlich, Mark Meyer
Judge Panel:We concur: Stewart, J., Miller, J.
Case Date:March 15, 2019
Court:California Court of Appeals
 
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RICHMOND COMPASSIONATE CARE COLLECTIVE, Plaintiff and Appellant,

v.

7 STARS HOLISTIC FOUNDATION et al., Defendants and Respondents

A154581

California Court of Appeals, First District, Second Division

March 15, 2019

Contra Costa County No. MSC1601426 Superior Court Honorable Barry P. Goode Judge

Attorney for Plaintiff and Appellant Richmond Compassionate Care Collective: Foreman & Brasso, Ronald D. Foreman;

Attorney for Defendants and Respondents 7 Stars Holistic Foundation, Inc.; Zeaad Handoush: Losch & Erlich, Joseph J. Erlich, Mark Meyer

Richman, Acting P.J.

Plaintiff appeals from an order that awarded attorney fees to defendants who were partly successful in their anti-SLAPP motion, contending only that the fees were not proper, as plaintiff's claim was based on the Cartwright Act. We disagree, and we affirm.

BACKGROUND

The General Setting

In 2011, pursuant to Richmond Marijuana Ordinance No. 28-10 NS (ordinance), the City of Richmond issued a medical marijuana collective permit to Richmond Compassionate Care Collective (RCCC). It was the first collective to obtain such a permit.

Three other permits were later issued over the ensuing years, to: (1) Richmond Patients Group (RPG), acting through principals William and Alexis Koziol and Darrin Parle; (2) Holistic Healing Collective, Inc. (Holistic), acting through its principal Rebecca Vasquez; and (3) 7 Stars Holistic Foundation, Inc. (7 Stars), acting through its principal Zeaad M. Handoush.

The ordinance had been adopted in 2010, and was from time to time amended, including in 2011, 2012, and 2014, when the ordinance was amended to reduce the number of dispensary permits from six to three, and also to provide that if a permitted dispensary did not open within six months after the issuance of a permit, the permit would expire and become void. RCCC ended up losing its permit.

The Proceedings Below

In July 2016, RCCC filed a complaint alleging a single cause of action, violation of the Cartwright Act. The complaint named 11 defendants: RPG, Holistic, 7 Stars, William and Alexis Koziol, Parle, Vasquez, Handoush, Lisa Hirschhorn, Antwon Cloird, and Cesar Zepeda. As indicated, eight of the defendants were the three collectives and their principals. As to the other three, Hirschhorn was alleged to be an agent of the other defendants (except Cloird and Zepeda), and Cloird and Zepeda were alleged to be the agents of the other defendants (except Hirschhorn).

The complaint alleged in essence that defendants, acting in concert, encouraged and paid for community opposition to RCCC's applications before the Richmond City Council and also purchased a favorably zoned property.

In October 2016, represented by five separate counsel, defendants filed a joint special anti-SLAPP motion to strike pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16 (section 425.16). The motion was heard by the Honorable Barry Goode, a most experienced superior court judge, and on December 5, he granted the special motion to strike as to certain allegations related to protected activity, specifically statements made before the Richmond City Council and defendants' actions in opposing RCCC's application. As Judge Goode summed up: “In short, the allegations of the complaint related to efforts to mobilize public opposition to Plaintiff's application and to obtain a decision from the Richmond City Council all relate to protected activity (prong one) and Plaintiff has not shown a probability of prevailing on the merits as to them (prong two); they shall be stricken from the complaint. The allegations of the complaint related to the purchase of real property and to price fixing do not relate to protected activity and shall not be stricken from the complaint.”

So, the outcome of the anti-SLAPP motion could be said to be mixed: discrete portions of the complaint related to mobilizing public opposition and dealing with the Richmond City Council were stricken, while the aspect of the complaint based on defendants' conspiracy to tie up code-compliant properties so that RCCC could not open any location in Richmond would remain in the complaint.

Following the ruling on the anti-SLAPP motion, in February 2017, two groups of defendants filed separate motions for attorney fees, as described in detail below. On March 16, Judge Goode held a hearing on the motions for attorney fees, at which he expressed his concern about the effect of his ruling.1 Suffice to note here that Judge Goode essentially took the fee motions off calendar, declining to rule on them until the pleadings had been resolved.

Meanwhile, RCCC filed a first amended complaint and then a second, to both of which demurrers were sustained with...

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