Plaintiffs’ counsel have filed their final papers supporting their motion for attorneys’ fees…
On December 20, 2013, Plaintiffs’ counsel filed their reply in support of their motion for attorneys’ fees.
The reply motion argues that USDA’s contention that plaintiffs have nothing to show for plaintiffs’ counsel’s efforts is ridiculous. Over $1,000,000,000.00 is now available to plaintiffs because of the efforts of plaintiffs’ counsel, including the negotiations that led to the development of the administrative claims process.
The Reply motion goes as far as stating:
“Without the filing of the instant lawsuit, and Plaintiffs’ persistence in keeping alive the claims of putative class members, there would have been no possibility of this compensation for women farmers who have been subjected to USDA’s discrimination.”
Most of the reply brief details the various legal theories under which Plaintiffs’ counsel claim they are entitled to a giant attorneys’ fee award.
The most interesting part of the brief is the conclusion in which Plaintiffs’ counsel accuses USDA of acting unfairly by setting up the administrative claims process just to punish plaintiffs’ counsel so they would not be awarded attorneys’ fees. The conclusion states, in part:
“If fees are denied to Plaintiffs here, it seems that, in any case in which the government feared a loss that would result in it having to pay attorneys’ fees, it could simply “voluntarily” set up an administrative payment system and make payments to individuals, in order to avoid attorneys’ fees. It is nonsensical that the government could avoid paying attorneys’ fees by preemptively setting up a fund, payable out of the same Judgment Fund that would be used if it actually lost a case, to avoid paying fees, costs, and expenses. The government could simply do this to penalize litigants or lawyers it is not happy with; as it is in effect trying to do here, by paying fees, costs, and expenses for African-American and Native American farmers, but not for women farmers, although the relief achieved for the farmers is substantially identical. This would be simply unfair and present an invitation to abuse.”
Plaintiffs’ counsel make a fair point, theoretically. However, remember that this case failed to even be certified as a class action, so the alleged abuse is not as stark.
The court has not yet ruled on this motion but we will keep you updated. Keep checking back.