Islamic Charity Attorneys Seek $2.26 Mil in Legal Fees in NSA Wiretap Case

Via Josh Gerstein at Politico: The lawyers who successfully sued the Government over Bush's warrantless NSA electronic surveillance of the defunct Islamic charity al-Haramain and two of its attorneys have filed a request for $2.26 million in legal fees.

The motion is here. The hourly breakdowns by lawyer (I've removed the names but they are in the pleading) for Dec. 2005 through July, 2010, are:

  • Lawyer 1: 2,497.6 hours.
  • Lawyer 2: 235.1 hours.
  • Lawyer 3: 682.2 hours.
  • Lawyer 4: 912.7 hours.
  • Lawyer 5: 284.6 hours.
  • Lawyer 6: 343.5 hours.
  • Lawyer 7: 467.2 hours.
  • Lawyer 8: 19.7 hours.

This appears to be in addition to the $612k the plaintiffs asked for in damages back in April (available here.) The Court's March, 2010 ruling finding that the government violated FISA when it intercepted communications related to the Al-Haramain charity is here. [More...]

Reasonable attorneys fees and other investigation and litigation costs pursuant to 50 U.S.C. § 1810©.

The motion also discloses its attempt to settle the case were rebuffed. The Government plans to appeal.

So, who is liable? According to their damage statment:

BARACK H. OBAMA, President of the United States; NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY and KEITH B. ALEXANDER, its Director, in his official capacity; OFFICE OF FOREIGN ASSETS CONTROL, an office of the United States Treasury, and ADAM J. SZUBIN, its Director, in his official capacity; and FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION and ROBERT S. MUELLER III, its Director, in his official capacity.

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    ripoff artists (none / 0) (#1)
    by diogenes on Thu Jul 08, 2010 at 07:18:21 PM EST
    Total of about 5500 hours or so.  So they're asking for five hundred dollars an hour for "lawyer time" billing.  
    They should either be paid for this case on a contingency basis or be paid on the level of a replacement-level legal aid lawyer.  Why should the government pay top-shelf hourly rates?  

    why should lawyers get less (none / 0) (#2)
    by Jeralyn on Thu Jul 08, 2010 at 10:50:28 PM EST
    because the government is the defendant? The penalty is a strong deterrent against future misconduct.

    The pleading explains how the rate was arrived at. It's the  one the court in this case wanted to use, as opposed to one the lawyers wanted to use (the Lodestar).

    Nevertheless, on the assumption that this Court will adhere to its previous practice, plaintiffs ask the Court to calculate the award of attorney's fees, at a minimum, according to the hourly rates prescribed by the Laffey matrix as adjusted for locality.

    The Laffey matrix for 2009-2010 prescribes attorney's fees at hourly rates of $465
    for attorneys with 20-plus years of experience, $410 for attorneys with 11-19 years of experience,
    $410 for attorneys with 8-10 years of experience, $270 for attorneys with 4-7 years of experience,
    and $225 for attorneys with 1-3 years of experience.

    Ripoff Laffey matrix (none / 0) (#3)
    by diogenes on Fri Jul 09, 2010 at 06:51:12 PM EST
    $ 465 per hour for a forty hour week equals $18,600 dollars a week equals $966,000 per year.  And that's for "average" experienced lawyers.  
    My guess is that lawyers created this matrix.

    An attorney with 40 billable hours per week (none / 0) (#4)
    by Jack E Lope on Sun Jul 11, 2010 at 06:33:18 PM EST
    is probably putting in 70+ hours.  Or committing fraud.