Judge says activist must pay big bucks


Ozzie Silna said his pursuit of attorney fees was a thing of principal, since Wade Major had tried to minimize his participation in the 2004 election.

By Jonathan Friedman / Assistant Editor

The final total is yet to be determined, but local activist Wade Major owes his political rival, Ozzie Silna, a large sum of money.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Terry Friedman ruled last Thursday that Major must pay Silna more than $135,000 to cover the attorney fees regarding some of the litigation related to a lawsuit Major filed two years ago in which he attempted to prevent Silna from having major financial involvement in the 2004 City Council election. But Friedman’s ruling only covers the costs incurred by Silna when he appealed an earlier decision, later overruled by an appellate court, which said he should not receive the fees. The rest of the bill will be determined later this year. Silna is asking for more than $70,000.

Major had said previously that Silna, a wealthy man who he said did not need the money, only wanted to collect the attorney fees because he was attempting to destroy him. But following this ruling, Major’s comments were limited.

“At this point, I just want the process to sort itself out,” Major said. “I am hoping for a positive outcome.”

Silna said his pursuit of the attorney fees was a thing of principal, since Major had tried to minimize his participation in the 2004 election.

“He went through the effort to go ahead and sue me,” Silna said. “And when his case was thrown out for having no merit, he expects me to pay for it. He should consider what he does before he does it. All of this here was his own fault.”

As to whether Major has the money to pay Silna what could be a bill of more than $200,000, Major said he did not want to talk about that without first speaking with his attorneys. Silna said whether he would be putting Major in financial ruin was not a concern to him.

“I don’t feel it was appropriate that he caused me to pay attorneys because he tried to stop me from supporting the people that I had endorsed [in the 2004 election],” Silna said. “I have no consideration over whether he suffers or doesn’t suffer. This is what justice is all about.”

In March 2004, Major filed a suit against Silna to prevent him from spending more than $100 per candidate in the council campaign. Major alleged that because Silna had sent out a letter in support of specific candidates and had attended a candidate informational session on behalf of one of them, he was directly involved in their campaigns. If one were directly involved in a candidate’s campaign, city law at the time prohibited that person from spending more than the $100 threshold for the campaign. The law has since been changed to allow people to spend up to $250 per candidate.

Judge Friedman immediately heard the case just a few days after it was filed and ruled against Major because he said Major had not provided enough evidence that Silna was directly involved in the candidates’ campaigns, and that even if it were true, the city code provided an opportunity for Major to bring his complaint to a city prosecutor.

Silna later sued for attorney fees. But Friedman ruled in June 2004 that Major did not have to pay them because he had the right to try to correct what he believed was a violation of a campaign finance law. A three-judge panel from the Court of Appeal’s 2nd District overturned Friedman’s decision in December 2005, citing a state law that is designed to protect people from being sued for politically strategic reasons, what is known as the anti-SLAPP law.

Major had argued that law did not apply to his situation because of an exception in the law that exempts suits that were made in the public interest. He cited his public interest was to prevent somebody from violating the city’s campaign finance laws, since City Attorney Christi Hogin had written in a signed statement to the court that the city of Malibu would not have been able to act on a complaint from Major prior to the election.

But the appellate court said Major did not qualify under the anti-SLAPP law’s exemption because the exemption could not be made for those suing people who wrote something in “an article published in a newspaper or magazine of general circulation.”

The case was then directed to Friedman for him to decide how much money Major must pay Silna. Friedman’s ruling only covers the cost of appealing the attorney fees decision. He will rule later on how much Major must pay to cover the costs of Major’s original suit, Silna’s initial case regarding the attorney fees and the payment hearings.