In a case where the plaintiff won and received an award of $12,500 in 2011, the high-profile lawyers made a request of only about $2.79 million in attorney fees, slightly more than 200 times the award received by the plaintiff. U.S. District Judge Joanna Seybert in the Eastern District of New York rejected the attorney fee claims in its entirety on Thursday, observing the claims to be “grossly inflated … in the hopes that the court would award even a small fraction of that.”
The case is Toussie et al v. County of Suffolk et al, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, No. 01-6716.
Objecting to the attorney fee claims, the Suffolk County said that the team of the plaintiff, Robert Toussie, did not deserve any fees, as the case where Toussie received only $12,500 against a claim of $35 million, was a de facto “significant defeat.”
During the case, in which the plaintiff’s efforts resulted in the paltry award by a jury, Toussie had retained more than a dozen lawyers and legal staff from several law firms since 2005 until 2011. The trial team included both Lowell, who is the head of Chadbourne’s white-collar defense and Scott Balber, who is the co-head of Chadbourne’s commercial litigation practice. Court filings showed that Lowel and Balber had billed more than $1 million since 2006.
Toussie’s team held that they were entitled to the fees, as the litigation was time consuming and “extremely complex” and that though the plaintiff did not receive the claim amount he sought, nevertheless he was vindicated, as the jury found the county had deprived him of his rights.
However, the judge observed, “The court finds that Toussie’s fee application is so outrageously excessive and unreasonable that it could not possibly have been made in good faith.” She further added, “Such conduct will not be tolerated, and accordingly, the court declines to award any attorney’s fees.”