The next redistricting fight: Who pays the attorneys?

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The Florida Legislature is continuing to oppose an effort by the plaintiffs’ attorneys to get their fees paid by state government now that the congressional redistricting case has been closed.

Lawyers for House and Senate filed more legal authority with the Florida Supreme Court on Thursday to support their position that the opposing lawyers are “not entitled to an award of attorney’s fees.”

Last month, the court gave its final OK to a redrawn version of the state’s 27 congressional districts, three years after a lawsuit alleged they were unconstitutional. The court eventually agreed and ordered a do-over of the map.

The League of Women Voters of Florida, Common Cause and others had sued over the current congressional lines, redrawn after the 2010 census, saying the existing map violates a state constitutional prohibition against gerrymandering, the manipulation of political boundaries to favor a particular incumbent or party.

They were represented by a panoply of lawyers near and far, including lead counsel David King of the King, Blackwell, Zehnder & Wermuth firm of Orlando; Tallahassee’s Mark Herron of Messer Caparello; as well as The Mills Firm in Tallahassee; Perkins Coie of Washington, D.C.; and Gelber Schachter & Greenberg of Miami.

They all submitted a request, also on Friday, for more time to supplement their motion to get paid.

In sum, they argue “that a fee award is warranted, as a matter of common law, ‘to vindicate a public right that is fundamental to our representative democracy, and the Legislature’s violations of … the Florida Constitution would not have been investigated or enforced if left to the Attorney General and other government agencies.’ “

The basis for the plaintiffs’ attorneys argument is the “private attorney general doctrine,” which isn’t law in Florida, according to the filings.

Generally, it says, “a successful party may be awarded attorney fees against one or more opposing parties in a civil action (that) results in the enforcement of an important right affecting the public interest.”

Florida follows the “American rule,” under which “each party bears its own legal expenses, including attorneys’ fees.”

The grand total was not mentioned in the latest filings; plaintiffs’ spokeswoman Lisa Hall said the various attorneys’ fees have yet to be calculated.

Jim Rosica

Jim Rosica is the Tallahassee-based Senior Editor for Florida Politics. He previously was the Tampa Tribune’s statehouse reporter. Before that, he covered three legislative sessions in Florida for The Associated Press. Jim graduated from law school in 2009 after spending nearly a decade covering courts for the Tallahassee Democrat, including reporting on the 2000 presidential recount. He can be reached at [email protected]


2 comments

  • Christopher M. Kennard

    January 11, 2016 at 1:45 pm

    I believe the individual Florida politicians and private interests who attempted to steal free and fair elections from the citizens of Florida
    must pay for the attorneys who stopped this corruption in court. These corrupt politicians and their paid lackeys have gerrymandered district election line boundaries so politicians can select the voters they wish to have in their district office boundaries rather than Florida voters having the constitutional right to freely and fairly choose their representatives. It is why the Republicans have not had to listen to Florida voters . . . they had the “fix” in to win every election. Voters had no real choice. I am joining the League of Women Voters once again, to support the public service they perform to Florida and our country, the USA.

  • DOROTHEE Custer

    January 13, 2016 at 1:41 pm

    I agree they should be paid for their excellent work. I would like it if they individual legislators, who really made this legal action necessary, we’re now responsible for the attorney fees – after all, if those legislators had done their job of representing “We the people” the lawsuits would not have been necessary!!

Comments are closed.


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