Top Cooley partner billing rates revealed in fee request over transgender case

by Reuters
Monday, 29 November 2021 22:53 GMT

Signage is seen on the exterior of the building where law firm Cooley LLP is located in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., August 17, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

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Idaho lawyers contest legal fees request from lawyers at Cooley among other firms for a court-ordered sex reassignment surgery for a state prisoner, according to plaintiffs

(Reuters) - Lawyers for Idaho are contesting a request for more than $2.8 million in legal fees from lawyers at Cooley and other firms that successfully advocated for what plaintiffs say is the first state prisoner in the country to receive court-ordered sex reassignment surgery.

Idaho said in a filing that the fee request, which revealed hourly rates for top Cooley partners, included "excessive, unreasonable, and duplicative billings." Idaho's lawyers argued in their submission last week that any fees awarded should be reduced by 70%.

The compensation request was made under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, which sets a $232.50-per-hour cap. The plaintiffs' lawyers have asked for an enhancement, arguing that the capped rate would compensate "counsel for only a fraction of their work using even local Idaho rates."

Lawyers for Idaho and for the plaintiffs did not immediately comment on Monday.

Plaintiffs' filings show former Cooley partner Elizabeth Prelogar, now the U.S. solicitor general, billed last year at $1,085 per hour. Cooley partner Kathleen Hartnett's standard billing rate this year was $1,250.

Hartnett said in her filing that "these rates are consistent with the hourly rates Supreme Court practitioners typically charge to fee-paying clients for work before the United States Supreme Court, regardless of where the case originated."

Palo Alto, California-founded Cooley, which was retained last year as part of the plaintiffs' Supreme Court team defending lower court rulings, billed 370 hours. The firm would receive about $172,000 if the judge applies an enhancement, and the Oakland, California-based Rifkin Law Office would receive $1.1 million. Firms and organizations also seeking compensation include the National Center for Lesbian Rights and Hadsell Stormer Renick & Dai.

The Supreme Court in May 2020 ruled against Idaho's bid to stop transgender inmate Adree Edmo's gender confirmation surgery. Edmo, released from prison in July, served a sentence for a 2011 sexual assault of a 15-year-old boy.

The high court's decision "was not only correct as a legal matter, but also deeply important for our client and an overwhelming legal victory for plaintiff's legal team," Hartnett told the Idaho district court.

The case is Adree Edmo v. Idaho Department of Correction, U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho, No. 1:17-cv-00151-BLW.

Among the plaintiffs' lawyers: Lori Rifkin of Rifkin Law Office; and Amy Whelan of National Center for Lesbian Rights

For Idaho: Steven Kraft and Peter Thomas of Moore Elia & Kraft