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Monday, May 20, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

$713,000 in Fees for Homeless Litigation

(CN) - Attorneys who successfully litigated a lawsuit against Los Angeles to allow homeless people to sleep in their cars without being arrested or ticketed are entitled to $713,000 in fees, a federal judge ruled.

The 9th Circuit ruled in June 2014 that the Los Angeles ordinance that prohibited the use of a vehicle as living quarters, parked or standing on any city street, was unconstitutionally vague.

Los Angeles Police Department had been using the 1983 law to warn, cite and arrest homeless people, leading Cheyenne Desertrain and six others to file a lawsuit challenging the law.

A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit found that the law did not draw a clear line between innocent and criminal conduct, and violated the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment.

The appeals court did not rule on other constitutional and state law claims in the complaint because its holding entitled the homeless people to injunctive and declaratory relief, which were the only forms of relief they sought.

U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner awarded $713,487 in attorneys' fees.

Attorneys requested fees for 1,538.9 hours worked by six attorneys and one paralegal. Klausner reduced half of the hours attributing to drafting the complaint, finding that more than 200 hours was unreasonable.

Klausner also found that the 739.1 hours attributed to preparing a motion for partial summary judgment and opposing the city's motion for summary judgment was unreasonably inflated.

Given attorney Carol Sobel's "many years of experience in civil rights litigation, and in light of the evidence that it took defense counsel over 500 hours less to complete substantially similar work, the court finds that the total hours plaintiffs' counsel spent on the cross-motions is unreasonable," Klausner said.

However, Klausner found that the attorneys were entitled to a 1.2 multiplier based on the high risk of nonpayment in this case.

In addition to Sobel, the attorneys who worked on the case were Louisa Okanyan, Michael Rapkin, Scott Rapkin, Susan Millmann and Dana Schumacher, and paralegal Peggy Kennedy.

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