Judge: Entitled, obsessed Aaron Katz must pay $225K in IVGID attorney fees
IVGID’s legal counsel brought this matter before the public at the May 18 board of trustees meeting. Click here to read the string of motions from IVGID included in that meeting’s board agenda packet.
You can also visit https://www.yourtahoeplace.com/ivgid/board-of-trustees/meetings-and-agendas and click on the item as part of the May 18 packet.
INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — In a searing ruling riddled with conclusions that pull no punches, a Washoe County judge has ordered Aaron Katz to pay more than $225,000 in attorney fees to the Incline Village General Improvement District for the work its lawyers have done defending frivolous litigation that, over the course of five years, wasted the court’s time and ultimately failed the public by abusing the legal system.
“What began as a quest by Mr. Katz to invalidate the ($830) recreation fee he was required to pay as a resident of Incline Village morphed into an obsession with obstructing the staff of IVGID with burdensome records requests and contentious litigation,” Judge Patrick Flanagan wrote in a nine-page ruling issued Friday, July 15. “Neither courts nor the laws of Nevada exist so that those who detest their local governments can bully them into submission.
“At some point, these actions must come to an end. That point has now been reached.”
Flanagan’s ruling orders Katz to pay attorney fees in the amount of $226,466.80 to IVGID, and that the district is awarded additional costs in the amount of $2,925.80.
In a Friday evening phone interview, IVGID Legal Counsel Devon Reese said Flanagan made the right ruling and that, “we’re happy with the result.”
“The district’s position on this is that the court proceedings played out as they should have, and ultimately the district was vindicated,” Reese said. “It’s also a testament to the hardworking men and women who work for the district and for the hardworking folks who are elected to represent the district.”
In fact, Flanagan’s ruling on Friday mentioned IVGID staff members several times, making it clear that Katz not only did a disservice to the district, but also to the public.
“In this case, Mr. Katz produced no credible evidence to support the claims he made, (evidenced) by the fact that virtually every claim was dismissed before trial,” Flanagan wrote. “… Katz’s records requests were designed to harass and distract the employees of IVGID, which impeded their ability to serve the community at large.”
“Clearly, this entire suit was a pretext for Mr. Katz to obstruct and impede IVGID’s operation to the detriment of thousands of other residents,” Flanagan ruled, adding that his litigation has been “a clear abuse of the judicial system.”
A FIVE-YEAR SAGA
Katz filed his original lawsuit in the summer of 2011, alleging that IVGID had violated state law for years by offering free and discounted services to non-residents and private parties, and he further demanded limits be set against the facilities, services and activities the district should be allowed to provide.
He also contended the legitimacy of the district’s recreation and beach facility fees in the suit that initially had 14 causes of action — a number that eventually ballooned to 24 causes by way of various filings and amendments over the past half-decade.
After a series of court rulings and appeals (including a stern order in April 2014 that concluded Katz was abusing the system and held a “conflagrant disregard” for Flanagan’s rulings) and by the time the case went to bench trial on March 21-22 of this year, Flanagan had thrown out all but one half of one remaining cause of action — whether IVGID was violating the Nevada Public Records Act by allegedly withholding documents from him.
“Prior to trial, Mr. Katz continuously evaded, avoided and ignored this court’s rules and orders,” Flanagan wrote in the July 15 ruling. “At trial, it became abundantly clear that IVGID had made every effort to accommodate Mr. Katz’s numerous requests for documents … with due diligence, completeness and good faith.”
Flanagan went on to say that Katz had insisted on IVGID to provide him documents that either didn’t exist or were protected by law; and that he demanded “unlimited access to their computers so he could search their data banks with the assistance of an IVGID employee when he needed it.”
“Nevada public records laws do not require entities to fabricate records in order to satisfy a records request,” the judge ruled. “Nor is there any support for Mr. Katz’s argument that he is entitled to use IVGID equipment and employees as his own.”
Further, at trial, IVGID Executive Clerk Susan Herron testified that she spends a large majority of her time responding “solely to records requests made by Mr. Katz.”
Despite that, Flanagan wrote, “Mr. Katz continued to pester Ms. Herron with burdensome records requests during the course of this two-day bench trial.”
“It appears the Mr. Katz is under the dubious impression that simply having the ability to make a public records request entitles him to treat the employees of IVGID as his own,” Flanagan ruled.
Further, Flanagan admonished Katz for the way he has treated Herron and other IVGID staff in both his email requests over the years for information, as well as his statements entered into the record at IVGID board meetings.
“On the eve of this court’s ruling in this matter, Mr. Katz found it necessary to scold Ms. Herron for not cooperating fully (at least in Mr. Katz’s mind) with his latest records request,” Flanagan wrote. “Additionally, this court reviewed Mr. Katz’s written statement to the IVGID Board of Trustees in response to this court’s ruling. This statement reveals an unfounded sense of entitlement that goes far beyond the bounds of what the Nevada public records laws allow for, and further illustrates Mr. Katz’s contempt for both this court and the orderly operation of IVGID.”
KATZ GOT HIS TONGUE
According to Nevada law, the awarding of attorney’s fees is done in order “to punish for and deter frivolous or vexatious claims and defenses because such claims and defenses overburden limited judicial resources, hinder the timely resolution of meritorious claims and increase the costs of engaging in business and providing professional services to the public.”
The North Lake Tahoe Bonanza reached out to Katz via email Friday night to seek his comment on Flanagan’s ruling. At 11:30 p.m., he responded with the following: “I have no comment at this time.”
Katz — whose wife, Judy Miller, is a candidate for the IVGID Board of Trustees election race this November — does have the opportunity to appeal Flanagan’s decision to the Nevada Supreme Court; should he, Reese said it’s not likely the high justices will be game to overturn the order.
“I am absolutely certain that would just be more frivolous activity,” Reese said Friday night. “I hope this ends it, I doubt it will, but I am confident that no further success will be had by the litigant.”
Per Flanagan’s ruling, Katz would have to pay the fees directly to IVGID, since the district already has paid that money to its legal team to defend the lawsuit, Reese said.