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Plaintiff's Attorneys In Racial Gerrymandering Case Seek Millions In Legal Fees From State

The law firm that successfully challenged Virginia’s racially gerrymandered legislative districts is trying to recoup the money spent on years of litigation. Perkins Coie has asked a federal court to award it’s legal team $4.5 million in attorneys’ fees and other legal expenses.

Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond, said judges can force the state to cover the firm’s legal bills because it’s a civil rights case. 

“This kind of litigation, vindicating voting rights, it’s clear that the prevailing plaintiff is entitled to attorneys fees and costs,” he said. 

However, Tobias said the court may decide to reduce the amount the plaintiffs requested after examining all the costs. 

The plaintiffs filed a motion for attorney’s fees and legal fees last summer as well. At the time, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring’s office said the request was “far from reasonable.''

In the August 2018 filing, his office said the lawyers for Perkins Coie “have not shown that their requested hourly rates for 2017 and 2018 are reasonable rates in Richmond, Virginia, nor have they demonstrated that (and how) the hours for which they seek compensation were reasonably spent on this case.”

A fee award could be paid by the state’s insurance policy or some other source.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring’s office has until September 1st to respond to plaintiff's request. 

Herring initially represented the state in the lawsuit, but declined to continue to defend the boundaries when a panel of federal judges concluded that they were racially gerrymandered. House Republicans spent more than $5 million appealing that decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, but justices declined to intervene. 

A new map has been approved for the November elections.


Whittney Evans is VPM News’ features editor.
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