Shelby County won the case that led the Supreme Court to strike down part of the Voting Rights Act, but that victory doesn’t mean the federal government should pay the county’s lawyers, a judge ruled last week. Washington D.C.-based lawyers for Shelby County had asked for $2 million in fees for the team that pursued the case all the way to the nation’s highest court. The case had challenged the Voting Rights Act’s formula that was used to determine which parts of the country needed to get pre-approval from the Justice Department before making any changes to their election procedures. The court found the formula unconstitutional. Its ruling ended the “pre-clearance” process for Alabama and several other states, a historic shift in how the federal government enforces anti-discrimination laws meant to protect minority voters.
Shelby County lost the case in two lower courts before prevailing at the Supreme Court. Over those three-and-a-half years, the county’s legal team billed more than $2.4 million. The Wiley Rein LLP firm in Washington billed 4,632.5 hours of work on the case through October 2013, at an average hourly rate of $525.98.
The judge who originally heard the case ruled Thursday that Shelby County isn’t entitled to collect the fees from the party that lost the case, the U.S. government.