The “city of Los Angeles will pay $215,000 to end a free-speech lawsuit involving a man who was kicked out of a public meeting after showing up wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood. …[Michael] Hunt, who is black, attended the meeting while wearing both the KKK hood and a T-shirt that featured a profanity and a racial slur used to describe African Americans.” Hunt’s attorney, Stephen Rohde, denied a city report that his client had on being ejected “thanked the security officers for providing him with a ‘big payday’.” Hunt had “previously received a $264,286 jury award stemming from a 2009 lawsuit in which he challenged the city’s vending restrictions on the Venice Boardwalk. The city also paid Hunt’s lawyer $340,000 in legal fees for that case.” Rohde, meanwhile, had been the attorney suing the city in another recent case involving complainants repeatedly ejected from city council meetings; in that case jurors had awarded the complainants only $1 each, the city still had to pay the attorney about $600,000 in legal bills under a “one-way” fee shift entitlement for successful civil rights suits. [L.A. Times, ABA Journal]
“When the NFL concussion settlement was announced nearly four months ago, the more than 4,500 players who had sued the league were assured that no part of the $765 million deal would go to lawyers.
“But a recent dispute involving the players’ lead negotiator confirms that not only was that statement misleading, some lawyers stand to receive multiple paydays, according to documents and emails obtained by ‘Outside the Lines.'” [ESPN.com, auto-plays video] (& welcome Above the Law readers)
A Ninth Circuit panel has ratified that result in a gender discrimination case under California law, ruling that federal district judge Claudia Wilken was within her discretion to approve the award even though, as defendant United Parcel Service argued, “plaintiff Kim Muniz recovered comparatively little in damages and had not prevailed on most of her claims.” [Julia Love, The Recorder; Muniz v. UPS]
- The law blog that almost brought down ObamaCare [Trevor Burrus, Cato] “In Government, Nothing Succeeds Like Failure,” public policies being hard to adjust when they go astray [Peter Schuck, HuffPo]
- Sexual harassment claim: “Attorneys awarded more than 600 times damages in Calif. case” [Legal NewsLine]
- KlearGear, of non-disparagement fame, reaps the online whirlwind [Popehat, Public Citizen, Volokh, earlier]
- “What if American Exceptionalism, properly understood, really boils down to associational liberty?” [Richard Reinsch, Liberty Law] Do religious-liberty carve-outs in same-sex marriage laws go too far, not far enough, or neither? [Dale Carpenter et al. vs. Richard Garnett et al.]
- What jury didn’t hear in qui tam award against pipemaker JM Eagle [Daniel Fisher, more]
- Majority of appointed commissioners on Consumer Product Safety Commission is is no hurry to reduce inordinate CPSIA testing burdens, per retiring commissioner Nancy Nord (more);
- Woman who claims to own sun says she prevailed in lawsuit brought by man who claims to own universe [Lowering the Bar]
Insist that class counsel’s attorneys’ fees be handled separately from the negotiation of relief to the class — and then don’t roll over for those fees the way defendants usually do. “They [Starbucks’ lawyers] contend that the $4.2 million request is ‘breathtakingly inflated,’ considering that class counsel managed to win certification of only one of 13 alleged subclasses [in a West Coast wage-hour class action].” [Alison Frankel, Reuters]
The Washington Post splashes an investigative story about the tax lien business, in which outsiders buy up delinquent municipal property tax liens sometimes amounting to mere hundreds of dollars, then roll in lawyers’ fees and costs that can push up the bill into many thousands, eventuating in the foreclosure of family homes. The narrative is less than clear about exactly how the process works, and even leaves the impression that a tax lien purchaser owed, say, $6,000 can walk away with all the proceeds from the foreclosure of a $197,000 house without having to hand any of it over to mortgage holders, let alone the original owner. And some of the solutions offered (let’s not allow lien foreclosures on elderly people!) would have unintended consequences that are also, to be polite, underexplained. Still, enough of the story is there that an important general principle comes through: it’s dangerous for the law to put opportunistic actors in a position to run up $450/hour legal fees pursuing adversarial process that might not actually have been needed to vindicate their interests.
- “Is the main effect of the minimum wage on job growth?” [Tyler Cowen] Minimum wage is transitional wage; most workers who receive it will earn higher rate in the next year if they stay employed [same] “Obama’s Bogus Case for a ‘Decent Wage'”[Ira Stoll]
- “Equipment manufacturer sues EEOC over email survey trolling for potential class members” [Jessica Karmasek, LNL]
- Don’t mess with SEIU? “Service Employees Suit Assesses Harsh Penalties against Breakaway Reformers” [Steve Early, Labor Notes]
- NLRB is fully staffed now, so watch out employers [Rod Kackley, Crain’s Detroit Business]
- Major League Baseball latest to face suit over unpaid volunteer workers [ABA Journal]
- Dent in lawyers’ business plan? Judge doesn’t think Michigan meatpacking workers’ $1,000 don/doff claim is adequate basis for $140,000 legal fee award [Free Press]
- Workplace vagrants: many employees quit jobs regularly as garnishment catches up to them [Coyote]
“At the risk of losing their homes if they didn’t, scores of Colorado homeowners struggling to avoid foreclosure in the past year were each forced to pay hundreds of dollars in lawyer charges for phantom court cases against them, a Denver Post investigation has found.” In 126 of the episodes, the paper reports, no foreclosure lawsuit was actually filed. Related reporting on allegations against Colorado foreclosure law firms here, here, etc.
Along with the Colorado attorney general, various other law enforcers both state and federal are scrutinizing the billing practices of creditors’ law firms looking for evidence that they’ve been evading the fee and cost reimbursement limits for foreclosures that Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and FHA prescribe on loans they own, guarantee or insure. [Paul Jackson, Housing Wire via Funnell]
Here’s why: it turns out that many of the major law firms responsible for managing foreclosures for the GSEs also have a controlling interest in the ancillary service firms that generate the variable fees that appear as “costs” on the lawyer’s bill. Many law firms either outright own, or their partners have a significant interest in, the company that is posting and publishing notices; or they may own or have an interest in the company that manages process of service, as well.
Such arrangements are not illegal, but could land the firms and mortgage servicers in hot water if it develops that they have connived at fee padding by the ancillary firms. (& welcome Above the Law readers). More: Heather Draper, Denver Business Journal (and thanks for quote).
In April, an extensive New York Times investigation by Sharon Lafreniere confirmed and extended what writers associated with the late Andrew Breitbart had been charging for more than two years: the so-called Pigford settlement, in which the U.S. Department of Agriculture agreed to make payments to persons charging racial bias in agriculture programs, is riddled with fraud. If you thought this might stand in the way of a payday for plaintiff’s lawyers in the case, you’re wrong: U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman has just approved a payout of $90.8 million to the lawyers, over objections. That represents the maximum (7.4 percent) of what was being asked for: “The deal set out a fee range between 4.1 percent and 7.4 percent.” [BLT]
- We’re worth it: lawyers in credit card case want judge to award them $720 million [Alison Frankel, Reuters] Johnson & Johnson will fight $181 million payday for private lawyers in Arkansas Risperdal case [Legal NewsLine]
- British Columbia, Canada: “Lawyer Ordered To Pay Costs Personally For ‘Shoddy Piece Of Counsel Work’” [Erik Magraken] Ontario client questions lawyer’s fee [Law Times]
- Sixth Circuit: attorneys fees statute not intended to cover dry cleaning and mini-blinds [Legal Ethics Forum]
- Indiana lawmaker goes back to drawing board on loser-pays bill [Indiana Law Blog]
- ‘Shocked’ by $3M legal fee in fatal car-crash case, judge tells lawyers to pay plaintiff lawyer $50K [ABA Journal]
- Seth Katsuya Endo, “Should Evidence of Settlement Negotiations Affect Attorneys’ Fees Awards?” [SSRN via Legal Ethics Forum]
- In Israel, more of a discretionary loser-pays arrangement [Eisenberg et al, SSRN via @tedfrank]
- British cabbie beats ticket, recovers only some of his legal costs. Still better than he’d do here, right? [Daily Mail]
- Turnaround guru Wilbur Ross: current structure of bankruptcy fees encourages lawyer “hyperactivity” [Reuters]