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Jackson Fire Department Dispute Heading Back to 5th Circuit, This Time Over Fees

A discrimination lawsuit is headed back to the Fifth Circuit as the contest for attorneys’ fees continues after a District Court judge drastically reduced the plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fee request. Attorneys for the plaintiff, who had sought over $1.2 Million in attorneys’ fees were left with an award for $263,901 – for fees AND expenses.

The District Court judge reduced the fees for a variety of reasons. Key to the ruling was the judge’s decision that much of the fees requested by the firm of Woodley & McGillivary were duplicative and reflected overstaffing. According to an article in the Clarion Ledger, the lead attorney on the case is extremely disappointed in the decision. Molly Elkin is quoted as saying “Judge Wingate’s decision dramatically reducing plaintiffs’ attorney’ [sic] fees is erroneous because it improperly excluded plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees on the baseless ground that they were duplicative and excessive,” and failed “to carefully review the contemporaneous time records plaintiffs’ submitted in support of their motion for attorneys’ fees.” The fire department successfully claimed that the plaintiffs’ attorneys failed to exercise proper billing judgment.

The judge further reduced the amount awarded based on his view of the limited success of the litigation, which was settled for $250,000 – less than one-sixth the amount requested for attorneys’ fees. Plaintiffs’ attorneys claim that he did not factor in the non-monetary relief that was awarded, which included changes to city personnel policies.

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