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Judge Awards Part of Legal Fees in Gay Marriage Case
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North Dakota gay

Summary: North Dakota pays back the legal fees for two law firms taking on a gay marriage case on behalf of a couple, but not for the full amount the firms wanted.

A North Dakota federal judge gave the legal fees back to the lawyers that represented a gay couple in a gay marriage case. Lambda Legal and Faegre Baker Daniels, a Minneapolis-based law firm, were awarded $57,351 for suing North Dakota over gay marriage before the Supreme Court had ruled.


The law firms were seeking $124,000, but U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson called their hourly rates excessive and cited that much of the work had been duplicated by other attorneys. Erickson wrote, “Moreover, the hours billed by the attorneys reflect an excessive amount of time spent on simple issues such as an extension of a deadline or to request a stay be lifted.”

Lambda Legal sued the state in June 2014 on behalf of a Fargo couple. The couple had married in Minnesota, but North Dakota would not recognize their marriage as legal. The state’s ban was disregarded once the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage was legal. North Dakota had already settled with the attorneys in another lawsuit for $58,000 of the legal fees and costs.

The state is obligated to pay attorney fees, but the amount requested was said to be excessive. An attorney for Lambda Legal, Karen Loewy, called the ruling unfair because it may cause private-practice lawyers from taking on civil rights cases in the future. She stated, “The fees are certainly not our primary focus in taking on a case like this – we do not charge our clients – but the availability of fees is an important part of the system for enforcing civil rights.”

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