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Gura Gets $1.1 Million for Heller

Today, Alan Gura gets a decision on how much he should be paid by DC for having to fight on behalf of Dick Heller & others against the city’s unconstitutional gun laws.

A federal judge on Thursday issued an opinion awarding Heller’s attorneys $1,137,072.27 in fees and expenses. The attorneys had argued they should be awarded $3.1 million. Attorneys for the city said the figure should be closer to $840,000. …

The judge’s opinion awards Gura approximately $662,000 for more than 1,500 hours of work on the case, paying him at a rate of $420 per hour. Five other members of Heller’s team are also compensated.

There’s no comment from Gura in the article, but the city is very happy with the award.

14 Responses to “Gura Gets $1.1 Million for Heller”

  1. When I see Alan next week, I expect him to pick up the drinks!

  2. terraformer says:

    but the city is very happy with the award.

    Hell yeah they are, they walked away with near the minimum.

  3. DirtCrashr says:

    Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy, and with the incentives all aligned in our favor – that’s why we win.

  4. Dannytheman says:

    Should have been 2.4 million. I’m thinking the judge was in the tank for the city!!

    But the city residents should be angry, they have another loss scheduled to lose, don’t they?

  5. Jeff says:

    From the linked article: “Heller’s lead lawyer, Alan Gura, says his team is still studying the opinion and possible next steps. Gura said he is pleased with much of the opinion, but he said the fee calculation the judge used was outdated and that lawyers doing similar work in Washington are typically compensated at a higher rate.”

    • Bitter says:

      Then the article has been updated since the post. At press time, they had no comment.

      • Jeff says:

        Yeah, that’s what I figured. I think news articles should be marked when they’re updated, but I guess they don’t agree.

  6. David says:

    If the city is happy with the deal, then Gura got short changed. One of the rules of contract negotiations: If both parties walk away feeling they go short changed, the deal was a good and fair one.

  7. Countertop says:

    DOJ uses a sliding scale – the Laffey Matrix – based upon years out of law school. Current version is much higher than that, Though I don’t know when Gura graduated from law school. Here’s a link to one version of it.

    http://www.laffeymatrix.com/see.html

    You need to assign hours based upon the date they were incurred (it helps to keep very detailed billing records even though you aren’t billing anyone). Also, you don’t get to recover for ALL the hours you put in, only the reasonable time you spent working on the specific issues you were victorious on.

    • Jeff says:

      Gura graduated from Georgetown in 1995.

      • Countertop says:

        So then, based on the linked Matrix (which the Department of Justice used this fall in a case with me) this award seems to me to be on its face within the appropriate range.

        Most of the heavy legal work happened in 2002-2006. His rate – and the rate of the others – will change year to year as they progress on the Matrix.

        And recall that ultimately, only Heller’s claim prevailed – as a result there isn’t a recovery for the substantial portion of the underlying Parker work related to all the other original Parker litigants.

        • Jeff says:

          The original petition sought a multiplier due to the exceptional nature of the case, which was completely denied. If vindicating one of the amendments of the bill of rights isn’t exceptional, I’m not sure what is.

          http://volokh.com/posts/1220793701.shtml has some discussion from when the original fee petition was filed, including replies by Gura himself. I’ll quote his first comment:

          Everyone is invited to read our fee petition and make an informed decision:

          1. Our requested rates are well in-line with the market. We have submitted a great deal of economic and survey data to support our rates. The DOJ’s version of the Laffey Matrix is based on obsolete survey data and bad science, which lead to some fairly ridiculous predictions. Under D.C. Circuit law, it rightfully enjoys no special status as any sort of default. If someone thinks our rates are too high, that’s a criticism of the market for legal services.

          2. The Supreme Court has repeatedly held that exceptional cases warrant fee enhancement. Contingency enhancements are (wrongly) no longer available, but performance/exceptional case enhancements still are.

          We’re not making this stuff up. But when the abortion lawyers in Guam Society v. Ada, 100 F.3d 691 (9th Cir. 1996), give up their 2.0 multiplier, or when the lawyers for a transsexual police officer with a Title VII claim give up their 1.75 multiplier, Barnes v. City of Cincinnati, 401 F.3d 729 (6th Cir. 2005), we’ll reconsider. And by the way, when contingency enhancements were available, a 2.0 multiplier was the D.C. Circuit rule — which was thought to be too low. King v. Palmer, 906 F.2d 762, 767 (D.C. Cir. 1990), reversed, 950 F.2d 771 (D.C. Cir. 1991) (en banc).

          [By the way, why aren't contingency fees available in Section 1988 anymore? The statute provides for a "reasonable" fee. In the market, rational people reasonably take higher fees when there is a risk of non-payment. If the idea is to attract lawyers to difficult, contingent civil rights cases, it's not much to offer a contingent payment of the same rates billed to cash-paying clients.]

          3. The personal attack on our qualifications and the value of our legal services is beneath the dignity even of the Post’s editorial page. Talk about sour grapes! The Post hates the Second Amendment, they think the D.C. Circuit and Supreme Court got the case wrong. Fine. I get it. They lost. Now get over it. What rates are charged by the three firms we defeated? (Read our brief, we have some data). The purpose of Section 1988 is to attract qualified counsel to difficult and unpopular civil rights cases by paying market rates. I’d put up our team against anyone else’s — not to mention, our work product and our results. The Post suggests civil rights practice is some lesser relation of the law and only crappy lawyers should be attracted to the field. That view has been emphatically rejected by the courts.

          If the city doesn’t want to pay civil rights attorneys fee awards, it should stop violating the Constitution. So long as they view the vindication of our fundamental enumerated rights as “injuries,” they will continue to pay.”

          • Countertop says:

            Don’t disagree with anything that Gura addressed in the post. In my own case, where we won our second consecutive decision in a 2nd Circuit Court, over an illegal EPA rulemaking, we debated raising the stakes based on our disappointment over the total number we were eligible for under Laffey. But we decided to settle with DOJ over the amount owed because it frankly wasn’t worth the time and cost to litigate against them over.

            In Gura’s case, DC refused to accept any responsibility. I tend to personally think they should get hit harder as a result, but unfortunately, that’s not the way the system works.

            Same with the idea that Laffey isn’t necessarily controlling. That is true. But its also what the court system is used to, and my experience has been that a court always takes the path of least resistance. And if the court simply follows the Laffey Matrix, then your going to have a hard time convincing a higher court it amounts to a fundamental mistake worthy of overturning.

            If they decide to file an appeal, then they stand a better chance of securing their enhancement. But I wouldn’t expect a district court to do that. And the court following the prevailing standard hardly qualifies him as being “in the tank.”

  8. Sage Thrasher says:

    Now if we can just get Chicago to compensate the victims of violence who weren’t able to defend themselves because of the city’s totalitarian, pro-criminal gun bans…

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