Consumers Lobby Against Monopolies (“CLAM”), Towards Utility Rate Normalization

25 Cal. 3d 891 (1979), 603 P.2d 41

In a decision reversing in part and affirming in part an underlying Commission decision, the Court held that the Commission could award attorney’s fees under the common fund theory announced in Serrano v. Priest, 20 Cal. 3d 25 (1977), in quasi-judicial (adjudication) proceedings but that it could not award such fees in rate proceedings. In 1985, the Legislature responded by abrogating the distinction and permitting an award of fees (“intervenor compensation”) in many Commission matters. (See, Para. 41 supra.) The Court also addressed the then-widely accepted misconception that denial by the Court of a petition for writ of review of a Commission decision resulted in a “decision on the merits” for purposes of stare decisis. In CLAM, the Court confirmed that “although a summary denial by this court of a petition for writ of review is a ‘decision on the merits’ for res judicata purposes,40 it is not stare decisis.” This decision (known as “CLAM”) seems to have replaced People v. Western Airlines41 as the Rosetta Stone of Commission jurisdiction although a strong case can be made for County of Inyo (Para. 45).

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