The lawyers who successfully challenged the Voting Rights Act before the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year are seeking $2 million in legal fees from the federal government. U.S. Department of Justice lawyers and attorneys from Wiley Rein, who represented Shelby County, Ala., in the voting rights dispute, are expected to fight over two issues: whether the challengers are entitled to fees in the first place and whether $2 million is too much. The fee request “appears to present novel legal issues,” the attorneys in the case said in a Nov. 4 court filing. The government and civil rights groups involved in the litigation plan to oppose the fee request. U.S. District Judge John Bates will first decide whether Shelby County’s lawyers are entitled to fees before looking at how much compensation is appropriate. In June, a divided U.S. Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the voting rights law, which laid out the formula used to decide which states and jurisdictions should have to take special steps before making changes to their voting procedures. Wiley Rein filed its fee request in late October.
Bert Rein, a founding partner of Wiley Rein and lead counsel for Shelby County, said in an interview today that they met the requirements for claiming fees. The county sued, he said, “to protect the right of Shelby and its citizens’ right to put in place procedures it thinks will protect everyone’s right to vote.”
If the judge finds Shelby County is entitled to fees, the focus would then shift to the amount of money the county’s lawyers are seeking. Wiley Rein reported billing its standard hourly rates for the respective years it worked on the case (2010 rates for work in 2010, 2011 rates for work in 2011, etc.).