The Fremont County Commission has approved paying roughly $85,000 toward attorney fees for the plaintiffs in a 2005 voting rights lawsuit. The county’s insurance carrier is to pay the remainder of the $960,000 fee that a federal judge ordered the county to pay the lawyers who represented a group of American Indians in the suit. Commissioners used all $84,000 from their contractual services line item and dipped into the county’s cash reserve for $1,275 to fulfill their obligation. The commission has settled its financial obligations in the suit, but the legal action left a lasting impact on the county.
As a result of the ruling, which struck down Fremont County’s at-large election system, the county has been split into five commission districts, and commissioners now are elected by members of their home district. The final ruling against Fremont County was made in 2012.
The plaintiffs said the at-large elections diluted the American Indian vote. In the Sept. 20 order, U.S. District Judge Alan Johnson said federal code allows winners of civil rights and voting rights lawsuits to recover fees for their attorneys from the defendants in the cases.