Thursday, December 2, 2021

Trump’s Sanctioned Lawyers Learn the Meaning of “Lodestar”

Among the “vexatious and meritless lawsuits” challenging the results of the 2020 presidential election, one case filed in the State of Michigan was especially noteworthy. Judge Linda Parker found that the plaintiffs’ claims in that case were so excruciatingly bad that they rose to the level of being an abuse of the legal system. So, after dismissing the lawsuit, Judge Parker required ALL of the plaintiffs’ lawyers to appear for a hearing to explain why they should not be sanctioned (punished) for purposely undermining confidence in the election process. 

It was not a close call. In August, Judge Parker sanctioned all the attorneys, requiring them to take remedial ethics education and referring many of them to their respective state bar associations for possible disbarment. These lawyers included Sidney Powell and L. Lin Wood who continue to ask their followers to financially support them. 

Courts realize that “true believers” often do not understand the concept of sanctions. And, whether due to willful ignorance or the inability to make rational decisions, some will continue to believe the long-disproved narrative that the Powells and Woods espouse. 

Therefore, the court’s only other remedy is to hit the lawyers in the pocketbook. That is what Judge Parker did today. She ordered the entire legal team to pay the legal fees incurred by the State of Michigan and City of Detroit in defending the spurious lawsuit. The amount of those fees? $175,250.57. These are owed by the plaintiffs’ lawyers “jointly and severally,” which means that the money will come from whoever has the deepest financial pockets. 

$175,250.57 is an oddly specific number and it offers the opportunity to talk about lodestar. 

You are familiar with many different methods of computing attorneys’ fees. Sometimes, fees are based on a percentage of the amount recovered (such as in traffic accident cases). In other matters, such as probate proceedings, fees are awarded according to a court-approved formula. 

For proceedings such as this, however, those approaches do not work. Therefore, the court requires the lawyers requesting fees to document them using what is known as the “lodestar” approach: the number of hours worked multiplied by a reasonable hourly fee. 

The time sheets that document an attorney’s work are specific both as to the time involved per day (broken down into 6-minute increments) and the specific work performed. So, for example, I could not claim to have worked “all day on this litigation.” Rather, the description would be more like “2.7 hours drafting answer to count one of the complaint.” 

The hourly rate must also be “reasonable.” I may think my time as an expert is worth $900/hour, but if the average hourly rate for similar work in that same geographic region is $325/hour, my fee request must be closer to that lower figure. 

Judge Parker in her order reviewed the time spent and hourly rate in detail. After excluding amounts that she found were not applicable, she arrived at the final dollar amount.

Do not expect that a check to pay those fees will be coming any time soon. The order states specifically, that the payment will be due only after any appeals have been concluded. Will the plaintiffs’ attorneys appeal? Since this group is known to delay and delay and delay, an appeal would not at all be surprising. 

In the meantime, Powell and Wood will continue to shear their sheep financially. And, if you are thinking that Trump might be using some of his multi-million dollar defense fund to pay these costs (which were expended for his benefit), your money might be better spent on a MyPillow.

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