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Thursday, December 7, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Thursday, December 7, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

D.C. Rates Nixed for Ky. Lawyer Who Bested EPA

WASHINGTON (CN) - A Kentucky lawyer who forced action from environmental regulators can recover attorneys' fees, but not at the Washington rate, a federal judge ruled.

Berea, Ky.-based attorney Robert Ukeiley represented the Sierra Club in a Clean Air Act action against the EPA. The group said regulators had ignored its petition for an agency rule and designation of air quality computer models for ozone particles.

The parties stipulated to dismissal after the EPA responded to the petition, but the Sierra Club then asked the court to grant it more than $37,000 in attorneys' fees.

Though this rate corresponds to what attorneys make in Washington, the EPA argued that the group is entitled only to $5,122, representing Kentucky rates for only half of Ukeiley's work.

Since Ukeiley did most of his work on the case from Kentucky, U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton agreed that the lawyer should be paid by Kentucky legal rates and not the high rates of D.C. attorneys.

He disagreed with the government, however, as to its claim that Ukeiley deserved payment for half of the 41 hours he billed because one of the Sierra Club's two claims was dismissed.

"The court is not persuaded that the two claims are distinct enough to warrant a reduction in the number of compensable hours," Walton wrote. "Both of the Sierra Club's claims involve a common set of facts and were brought under the same provision of the Clean Air Act."

Walton determined that the standard rate in Kentucky is $300 per hour, awarding the Sierra Club $8,130 for attorney's fees. He also awarded nearly $7,000 to a Colorado attorney who also worked on the case, totaling the Sierra Club's award to $15,583.71.

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