Gay marriage lawyers bill state for $2.3M

The attorneys who defeated Tennessee’s ban on gay marriage say the state owes them more than $2.3 million for their time on the case, reports The Tennessean.

Court filings show the 19 attorneys who worked on the case clocked 5,974 hours. Given their average hourly rate of $390 per hour, they say their fees and costs exceed $2.3 million. They also want repayment of $65,555 of expenses.

The state would be on the hook for those costs if a judge orders the fees to be repaid.
Lawyers in the Tennessee Attorney General’s Office, which defended the state’s definition of marriage as one man and one woman, have until Dec. 9 to respond in court to the request for fee repayment.

Harlow Sumerford, a spokesman for the attorney general, said Tuesday the requested amount is much higher than in other states involved in the case, and only one of the four states – Michigan – incurred the additional costs of a trial.

“While our office is unable to comment on much of the pending litigation, I will point out that the dollar amount being requested is significantly greater than in the other Sixth Circuit states involved in the same-sex marriage case,” he said. “For instance, the state of Michigan paid $1.9 million in attorney fees. The state of Ohio paid $1.3 million in attorney fees and the state of Kentucky is being asked to pay $1.2 million in attorney fees.”

The state and the attorneys challenging the gay marriage ban could settle out of court for a final dollar amount, or federal Judge Aleta Trauger will decide how much money the state must pay.

Federal law allows for attorneys who win certain types of cases, including those involving civil rights, to recoup a reasonable amount of their fees. Requests for fees are routinely made after cases are decided.

“We worked for two years on this case and we were successful,” said Abby Rubenfeld, a Nashville attorney who led the case. “All the attorneys for the state of Tennessee got paid while they worked on it, so we should be paid, too.”