About 3 years ago, after a 6-day trial, a Colorado federal jury concluded that a plaintiff had been retaliated against for participating in a discrimination complaint process. But, the jury didn’t award her much: $14,000 for out-of-pocket expenses, and $5,000 for emotional distress, pain, suffering, embarrassment, humiliation or damages to reputation.
Then, her lawyers filed a motion for attorney’s fees and costs.They requested $575,683.83.
Why so much? Well, there was an agency hearing, an administrative appeal, a petition to the EEOC Office of Federal Operations, a federal court complaint, a motion to compel discovery, a motion for partial summary judgment (followed by a joint motion to extend discovery deadlines), a motion for reconsideration (after the court did not grant summary judgment), a motion hearing, various conferences with the court, another motion for reconsideration, more motions, another hearing, a motion for sanctions, another conference, a jury trial (with lots of objections and evidentiary issues), a jury verdict, a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict or, alternatively, to alter or amend the judgment, a motion for a new trial, an appeal, a motion for voluntary dismissal of the appeal (which the plaintiff opposed), a reversal, a remand, a settlement conference, a pre-trial conference, a few more motions, another trial (I think), and a motion for attorney’s fees, a supplemental motion for attorney’s fees, and some other stuff that I probably missed.
All told, the court (here) awarded the plaintiff’s lawyers $241,007.60 in fees and costs of $3,511.89. (Less than half of what they requested — boo hoo).
The defendant was the United States Social Security Administration. So, your tax dollars paid their attorney’s fees to defend the case.
The point here is that litigation is expensive. In discrimination cases, all the plaintiff has to do is win, and you’re on the hook for attorney’s fees (plus, however much or little the jury awards the plaintiff). Too boot, win or lose, you have to pay your own lawyer. What’s the solution? I don’t know. It’s what keeps me employed. Otherwise, I must return to stunt doubling for Rainier Wolfcastle.