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Fees Demand Slashed in Very Old Medicaid Suit

WASHINGTON (CN) - A federal judge sliced and diced the attorneys' fees requested in a 21-year-old class action over the failure to provide poor D.C. children with guaranteed medical services.

U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler ruled in 1996 that the District of Columbia had violated several provisions of the federal Medicaid statute, prompting a settlement and years of appeals by the city.

The plaintiffs in the case, led by Oscar Salazar, asked Kessler for more than $1.2 million in attorneys' fees for work performed from 2010 through 2012 while the district's plethora of arguments culminated with a request for a 20 percent across-the-board reduction to the plaintiffs' number.

Kessler opted instead Wednesday to make a series of specific reductions.

"Defendants raise many, many objections to the lengthy papers and supporting data filed by plaintiffs," Kessler wrote. "Some have merit, many do not, and some are simply trivial."

She noted several instances, however, where the class was "over-lawyered," and billed the city unreasonable rates for services like document control and messengers.

Finding that some individual class members asked for excessive fees for their representation, the judge reduced their requests. She also noted that the plaintiffs asked too much for intra-office conferences, appellate work, status conferences, fees requested by co-counsel, fees on fees, various motions and expenses.

In most instances Kessler cut the money by 20 or 35 percent, but she found the co-counsel fees to be particularly excessive, slicing them down to 50 percent of what was requested.

"In short, as the court has already noted, there is over-lawyering in this case," the 33-page opinion states.

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