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Sokolow v. County of San Mateo

California Court of Appeal
261 Cal. Rptr. 520 (1989)


The Mounted Patrol of San Mateo County (defendant) was created in 1942, during World War II, to provide military support and civil defense. The bylaws of the Patrol restricted membership to men. The Patrol continued to operate after World War II and developed an exclusive relationship with the county Sheriff’s office. Patrol members carried badges and cards identifying themselves as Deputy Sheriffs. The county Sheriff was the Commander in Chief of the Patrol. The county Sheriff relied exclusively on the Patrol for equestrian search and rescue. Sonya Sokolow unsuccessfully attempted to become a member of the Patrol for many years. Sokolow (plaintiff) sued the County of San Mateo (defendant), the Patrol, and others (defendants) for sex discrimination. Sokolow alleged that denying her membership in the Patrol was unconstitutional sex discrimination under the equal protection clauses of the United States Constitution and the California Constitution. Sokolow requested the trial court to either order the Patrol to admit her or enjoin the county from continuing its relationship with the Patrol. Sokolow made it clear that her preferred remedy was an order to admit her as a member. The trial court granted summary judgment to Sokolow and required the Patrol to choose between ending its male-only membership policy or severing its relationship with the county. The Patrol elected to sever its relationship with the county. Sokolow then petitioned the trial court for an award of attorney fees under 42 U.S.C. § 1988 and California Code of Civil Procedure § 1021.5. The trial court determined that Sokolow was not a prevailing party and declined to award attorney fees. Sokolow appealed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Merrill, J.)

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