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Attorney’s fees awarded in statue removal case

Virginia Lawyers Weekly//February 17, 2020

Attorney’s fees awarded in statue removal case

Virginia Lawyers Weekly//February 17, 2020

Where the court has previously ruled that the Charlottesville City Council took actions contrary to Code § 15.2-1812, which prohibits local authorities from disturbing or interfering with war memo­rials, plaintiffs are the prevailing parties and are entitled to attorney’s fees and the costs of litigation.

However, plaintiffs will be awarded a lesser amount than requested for fees,. Further, the bulk of the requested “costs” are more properly characterized as the overhead expenses of running an office.


Plaintiffs sued to enjoin the city from moving a statue of Robert E. Lee after the city council authorized the city to do so. Plaintiffs also sought to enjoin the council from authorizing the city to move another war memorial statue. After long, vigorous and complex litigation, the court found in plaintiffs’ favor. They now seeking $554,751 in attorney’s fees and $49,286 in costs under Code § 15.2-1812. 1 C.

Defendants correctly assert that plaintiffs are entitled to attorney’s fees for only those claims or issues upon which they prevailed. After reviewing the record, the court concludes that about 20 percent of the time reported by plaintiff’s attorneys “was spent on matters relating to matters Plaintiffs did not prevail on.” After reviewing the billing records submitted for attorney and paralegal time and making adjust­ments to the amounts claimed, the court awards plaintiffs $364, 989 in attorney’s fees. “This is roughly 2/3 of what Plain­tiffs were asking for, and twice what De­fendants suggested.”

As to the costs of litigation, plaintiffs are awarded filing and service costs and fees. However, the court is “persuaded” not to award the “expenses” of litigation, “which would include transcript costs, copying costs, mailing costs, etc. “[S]uch are the overhead for running an office and are to be subsumed by the attorney’s fees awarded. …

“So, I will disallow the $49,286.83 with the exception of the $441 filing fee and the various service fees paid by Plaintiffs, if not included in the $441. So it is only the attorney’s fees and filing and service fees that I am ordering to be paid, in the amount of $365,430.60 plus any addition­al service fees.”

Payne, et al. v. City of Charlottesville, et al. CL-17-145, Jan. 21, 2020; Charlottes­ville Cir. Ct. (Moore). Ralph E. Main Jr., S. Braxton Puryear, Lisa Robertson, Richard H. Milnor for the parties. VLW 020-8-005, 14 pp

VLW 020-8-005

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