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County faces attorneys’ fees in prayer case

A federal judge has recommended that Pittsylvania County pay more than $53,000 in attorneys’ fees after losing the public prayer lawsuit brought by ACLU lawyers.

After a year and a half of litigation, U.S. District Judge Michael F. Urbanski in March ordered the county supervisors to permanently stop their practice of opening meetings with exclusively Christian prayers.

Lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia and a private lawyer sought more than $60,000 in fees for their work on the case. Magistrate Judge Robert S. Ballou cut the figure to $53,229.92.

Among the cuts was a reduction in the hourly fee for a Richmond lawyer who assisted in the case and the elimination of travel fees for lawyers who attended hearings but did not speak.

The lawyer for Pittsylvania County, state Sen. Bill Stanley of Moneta, conceded plaintiff Barbara Hudson was entitled to attorneys’ fees as the prevailing party, but he questioned the amount claimed.

The fee recommendation goes to Urbanski for consideration.

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