A Leon County circuit judge said Thursday the state is not required to pay the attorneys’ fees of voting-rights groups and individual voters who successfully challenged a 2012 congressional redistricting plan. Though Circuit Judge Terry Lewis’ decision is likely to be appealed, it would save the state from paying a tab that runs at least into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Lawyers on both sides said they did not have an exact amount of the disputed fees. Attorneys for the plaintiffs, including groups such as the League of Women Voters of Florida, offered a somewhat-novel legal argument in seeking the fees. That argument, which has been used in other states but not Florida, is known as the “private attorney general doctrine” — essentially that private parties had to pursue a case of societal importance.
David King, an attorney for the plaintiffs, also pointed to the large amounts of work needed to gather information and prove that lawmakers violated the state constitution in drawing up congressional districts. “It took a Herculean effort to pry the facts out of the Legislature and the political operatives,’’ King said.
But Raoul Cantero, an attorney for the Senate, pointed to Florida legal history in saying the “private attorney general doctrine” has never been applied in the state and argued that each party is responsible for bearing their fees. He also said political parties or other groups have repeatedly paid for past lawsuits about redistricting plans. “They happen at least once every 10 years,’’ said Cantero, a former Florida Supreme Court justice.
Full Article: State off the hook for legal fees in redistricting fight.