A former FBI agent and the lawyers who helped her successfully sue the government in a whistleblower retaliation lawsuit got a prosperous New Year's greeting Thursday from Chief U.S. District Judge James Rosenbaum in Minneapolis.
Over the government's objections, Rosenbaum ordered the payment of $1,016,325.69 in legal fees and expenses to Jane Turner of St. Paul and several lawyers who helped her to win damages totaling $360,000 after a jury found in February that the agency had retaliated against her for filing a 1998 sex-discrimination complaint.
Turner's court battle had dragged on for more than five years and included a detour to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Turner and her lawyers originally requested about $1.46 million in fees and expenses. Such requests are often reduced by the courts, and U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan recommended shaving about $444,000 in a 21-page report issued Nov. 20. But Boylan rejected the government's arguments for more substantial cuts.
Among other things, the government argued that Turner's lead attorney in the trial, Stephen Kohn, should be paid $350 an hour instead of the $500 hourly rate he requested. But Boylan rejected that.
He wrote, in part, that "the court is not convinced that $500 per hour would not be a reasonable rate that would be charged by an experienced and capable employment law attorney."
Boylan did recommend cutting the hourly rate paid to two paralegals in the case but otherwise approved the requested rates of Turner's attorneys and consultants since she first submitted a complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Boylan also largely rejected arguments that some of the bills represented unnecessary legal work. He recommended cutting just 14 of the 381 hours submitted by Minneapolis attorney Robert Hill, and he approved of the balance of 4,864 hours of bills for lawyers, paralegals and consultants. And Boylan ordered the government to pay additional expenses of $127,905.34, including $62,852.41 that Turner paid out of her own pocket.
Rosenbaum issued a two-page order adopting Boylan's recommendations.
Turner's lawyers asked Rosenbaum to ignore the government's objections, arguing that they were filed a day after the deadline set by Boylan. The government argued that they had met the deadline. Rosenbaum made no mention of the deadline dispute.
Dan Browning • 612-673-4493