Lawyers' "Billing Judgment … Demonstrates an Extraordinary Dedication to Containment of Cost …"

"... and renews this court's faith in conscientious billing practices."

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

Not something you hear often. First, the legal backstory, from Chief Judge Frances M Tydingco-Gatewood (D. Guam) in Davis v. Guam:

This is a civil rights action that deals with the topic of self-determination of the political status of the island and who should have the right to vote on a referendum concerning such. Plaintiff—a white, non-Chamorro, male and resident of Guam—was prohibited from registering to vote on the referendum. This court determined the prohibition was a violation of the Fifteenth Amendment's prohibition of racial discrimination in voting and the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause. Because there was a clear violation of the Fifteenth and Fourteenth Amendments, the court found it unnecessary to address the statutory arguments presented by Plaintiff.

After plaintiff's substantive win (which is on appeal), plaintiff sought attorney fees under statutes that authorize such fee awards to prevailing voting rights plaintiffs and to prevailing § 1983 civil rights plaintiffs more broadly; here was the judge's summary:

This case has not been an easy one for counsel to represent. Due to the highly political nature of the case, it was almost impossible for Plaintiff to find local counsel. This was demonstrated by Plaintiff when he and Adams contacted a total of 37 attorneys, all of whom declined representation for various reasons—some defended the plebiscite; others feared for their safety and property if they took on the case; and many were afraid that public officials and judges would view them less favorable if they were associated in preventing the plebiscite. This court itself witnessed firsthand the emotions running high in its courtroom and outside of the courthouse as members of the public demonstrated their constitutionally protected right to protest. For local counsel Mun Su Park to take on the case when no one else would is commendable.

With a few exceptions as noted above, the court finds that the requested fees are reasonable and certainly, there is no "padding" of billable hours by counsel. Counsel themselves did not bill for all the work performed in this case. For example, J. Christian Adams of the Election Law Center did not bill for at least 73 hours of work. In addition, Adams billed in real time, instead of billing by every tenth or fifteenth of the hour, which is rare for this court to see. Michael E. Rosman and his team from the Center for Individual Rights did not bill for approximately 210 hours. Douglas R. Cox and his team from the law firm of Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher billed for only $ 215,489.75, a more than 50% discount from the full billable amount of $ 468,368.23. Park himself billed for a little over two weeks' worth of work for a case that lasted for over five years. Reasonable billing judgments were exercised by all of Plaintiff's counsel. The court also notes that counsel could have asked for a lodestar upward adjustment but declined to do so.

In sum, in this sensitive and highly political-in-nature case, Plaintiff's billing judgment—both for attorneys' fees and costs—demonstrates an extra ordinary dedication to containment of cost and renews this court's faith in conscientious billing practices.

Disclosure: I've known Michael Rosman for about 20 years, and I'm an occasional advisor to the Center for Individual Rights.

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19 responses to “Lawyers' "Billing Judgment … Demonstrates an Extraordinary Dedication to Containment of Cost …"

  1. Just so I’m clear on the law: It’s illlegal for Guam to use race to exclude non-Chomorro people from full participation in Guam’s politics, but it is legal for the US government to use race to exclude Chomorro people from full participation in US politics? Anybody care to educate me on why the Insular cases still haven’t been overturned?

    1. Did I miss something? How is the US government using Race to prevent Chamorro people from full participation in US politics? Anyone from Guam, providing they are a US citizen (something granted by birth on the island), can fully participate innUS politics by moving to a US state. The barrier to full participation is territorial and applies to all US citizens regardless of race.

    2. Perhaps they are not US citizens? But Puerto Ricans are, I believe.

      Perhaps they come under the rubric of Native American Pacific Islander and some treaty comes into play?

      Just brainstorming. No real idea what the rationalization is. Or even if your assertion is valid.

    3. Guam isn’t a state and therefore can’t vote in Congress on passage and it doesn’t have electoral votes. Guam has its own government and neither they nor the USFG have made much progress in deciding the future of Guam. They didn’t become a Commonwealth because they didn’t meet the requirements.

      It’s not race-based: white people who live in Guam also don’t have the same voting power as citizens of states. Chamorro who move to the US gain that voting power.

  2. Guam is an incorporated territory of the United States, and as such, persons born on Guam have birthright U.S. citizenship, just like persons born on Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands (and the District of Columbia). They don’t get to vote for Senators, Representatives or the President, BUT if they move to the States they have all of the rights of citizenship. There ARE inincorporated territories of the U.S., like American Samoa and Wake Island, and persons born in those territories do NOT get birthright citizenship, and no right to relocate to the States without complying with immigration laws. I have no idea if there is any rational reason for the distinction.

    1. Dan, the end result is not greatly changed, but Guam is an unincorporated territory. The only incorporated US territory today is Palmyra Atoll, an island that had been part of the Territory of Hawaii but did not remain with it when it achieved statehood.
      Anyone born on Guam is a US citizen by birth, but that is a result of 8 USC §1407(b), not the Constitution. It is a similar mechanism that grants citizenship to people born in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, and the Canal Zone before it was given back to Panama.

  3. Plaintiff—a white, non-Chamorro, male and resident of Guam—was prohibited from registering to vote on the referendum. This court determined the prohibition was a [clear] violation of the Fifteenth Amendment’s prohibition of racial discrimination in voting and the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. … Douglas R. Cox and his team from the law firm of Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher billed for only $215,489.75….

    To the extent that this represents commendable restraint, I think it could be argued that this also an astounding indictment of the expense of federal litigation.

    1. Or an indictment of the racist government of Guam that insisted throughout trial and appeal that its perfectly acceptable to discriminate on the basis of race, as long as it’s against white people?

      100 years ago it was less obvious to those raised in a culture of racism that it was bad (see: Jim Crow), even it it was completely obvious to those not raised in a culture of racism. That’s just not true anymore, and hasn’t been for decades, so the government deciding to double down on racial discrimination is really the cause of the astounding expense.

  4. […] * How often do you see this? A federal judge praises counsel — specifically, J. Christian Adams of the Election Law Center, Douglas R. Cox of Gibson Dunn, Michael E. Rosman of the Center for Individual Rights, and local counsel Mun Su Park — for their “conscientious billing practices.” [Volokh Conspiracy / Reason] […]

  5. […] * How often do you see this? A federal judge praises counsel — specifically, J. Christian Adams of the Election Law Center, Douglas R. Cox of Gibson Dunn, Michael E. Rosman of the Center for Individual Rights, and local counsel Mun Su Park — for their “conscientious billing practices.” [Volokh Conspiracy / Reason] […]

  6. […] * How often do you see this? A federal judge praises counsel — specifically, J. Christian Adams of the Election Law Center, Douglas R. Cox of Gibson Dunn, Michael E. Rosman of the Center for Individual Rights, and local counsel Mun Su Park — for their “conscientious billing practices.” [Volokh Conspiracy / Reason] […]

  7. […] * How often do you see this? A federal judge praises counsel — specifically, J. Christian Adams of the Election Law Center, Douglas R. Cox of Gibson Dunn, Michael E. Rosman of the Center for Individual Rights, and local counsel Mun Su Park — for their “conscientious billing practices.” [Volokh Conspiracy / Reason] […]

  8. […] * How often do you see this? A federal judge praises counsel — specifically, J. Christian Adams of the Election Law Center, Douglas R. Cox of Gibson Dunn, Michael E. Rosman of the Center for Individual Rights, and local counsel Mun Su Park — for their “conscientious billing practices.” [Volokh Conspiracy / Reason] […]

  9. […] * How often do you see this? A federal judge praises counsel — specifically, J. Christian Adams of the Election Law Center, Douglas R. Cox of Gibson Dunn, Michael E. Rosman of the Center for Individual Rights, and local counsel Mun Su Park — for their “conscientious billing practices.” [Volokh Conspiracy / Reason] […]

  10. […] * How often do you see this? A federal judge praises counsel — specifically, J. Christian Adams of the Election Law Center, Douglas R. Cox of Gibson Dunn, Michael E. Rosman of the Center for Individual Rights, and local counsel Mun Su Park — for their “conscientious billing practices.” [Volokh Conspiracy / Reason] […]

  11. […] * How often do you see this? A federal judge praises counsel — specifically, J. Christian Adams of the Election Law Center, Douglas R. Cox of Gibson Dunn, Michael E. Rosman of the Center for Individual Rights, and local counsel Mun Su Park — for their “conscientious billing practices.” [Volokh Conspiracy / Reason] […]

  12. […] * How often do you see this? A federal judge praises counsel — specifically, J. Christian Adams of the Election Law Center, Douglas R. Cox of Gibson Dunn, Michael E. Rosman of the Center for Individual Rights, and local counsel Mun Su Park — for their “conscientious billing practices.” [Volokh Conspiracy / Reason] […]

  13. […] * How often do you see this? A federal judge praises counsel — specifically, J. Christian Adams of the Election Law Center, Douglas R. Cox of Gibson Dunn, Michael E. Rosman of the Center for Individual Rights, and local counsel Mun Su Park — for their “conscientious billing practices.” [Volokh Conspiracy / Reason] […]

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