The law firm that successfully convinced the U.S. Supreme Court to upend a key civil rights protection in the Voting Rights Act is now looking to collect $2 million for their work. According to The Blog of Legal Times, U.S. Department of Justice lawyers are trying to fend off the law firm Wiley Rein, the attorneys who represented Shelby County, Ala. in the Shelby v. Holder case. That SCOTUS hearing led to a ruling that VRA’s Section 4 "coverage formula" — which determined where the Act would apply — was unconstitutional.
DOJ is arguing that the law firm isn’t entitled to fees at all. As explained by Legal Times, Rein feels entitled because, "Under the voting rights law, a party who sued to enforce the ‘voting guarantees’ of the fourteenth or fifteenth amendments could seek legal fees if they won."
The conflict is over whether Shelby County’s case constituted enforcement of voting guarantees.
Wiley Rein’s logic for why they are commanding millions is a glimpse into how firms arrive at what some consider such exorbitant fees. From Legal Times:
The firm said its rates were in line with what other major law firms charged. Rein, for instance, reported charging $920 per hour in 2012, which the firm noted was less than the $1,250 hourly rate charged by certain partners at Dickstein Shapiro, according to a survey by The National Law Journal. This year, Rein’s hourly rate went up to $950. …
The firm argued its request for fees was reasonable given the complexity of the high-profile litigation. Between 2010 and 2013, Wiley Rein reported spending more than 4,600 hours on the case. Rein, in a court filing, said he reduced the firm’s fees by more than 15 percent to avoid disputes about inefficiencies in how the firm managed the case and to account for clerical work by lawyers and paralegals.
Rein said today the firm’s rates were reasonable. "We think they’re what the market justifies and what we charge to our other clients," he said.
Hope this isn’t a growing market to justify.