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Detroit Asks Judge to Throw Out Attorney’s Fee Request

The City of Detroit is seeking to have a judge throw out a request for $735,622 in legal fees for the lawyer representing the family of a 27-year old woman killed in a drive-by shooting. City attorney John Schapka claims that Norman Yatooma, plaintiff’s attorney, is only entitled to $25,000 for his work on the case in which the city destroyed emails against court orders.

Schapka said, “The fee rates claimed are unsupported by any authority greater than [his] imagination, [and] are unreasonable.” The action arises from a suit by the family that the city sabotaged a murder investigation and prevented the killers from being found.

Although this fight over fees relates to the email destruction controversy, last week a judge tossed out the initial suit, which prohibits Yatooma from recovering fees relating to the trial. The only fees available for recovery are those related to the destruction of the emails against court discovery orders.

In the fee petition, Yatooma states that himself, five other attorneys, and a legal assistant spent 2,000 hours trying to get the destroyed emails. City counsel alleges that Yatooma staffed meetings with “a full entourage of attorneys who sat and contributed nothing more than an audience to the proceedings.” They city attorney also points to entries where attorneys billed 21 hours on a single calendar day. The judge is currently reviewing the request and will ultimately decide how much in fees to award.

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