Lawyers for the District of Columbia are fighting a request from a private attorney who wants more than $3.12 million in fees for successfully challenging the city’s handgun ban.
The attorney, Alan Gura, who argued and won D.C. v. Heller in the U.S. Supreme Court, said in court papers that prosecuting the case was “far more protracted and difficult” than anticipated. Gura, who recently won another landmark handgun case, is pushing for a fee enhancement.
In response, lawyers for the District have filed papers calling Gura’s petition for fees “a study in unreasonableness.” Attorneys with the city’s Office of the Attorney General filed court papers July 9 in federal district court in Washington opposing Gura’s request. Click here for a copy of the city’s court filing.
The District attorneys—Ellen Efros, Robert Utiger and Andrew Saindon—said legal fees should not exceed about $830,000. The attorneys applaud Gura for “an impressive, indeed precedential win” but maintain that city residents should not have to pay for “over-preparation” for oral argument at the Supreme Court.
Gura’s “fee petition would be grossly excessive under any circumstances, but in a time of financial crisis, attempts to invoke the public interest to justify a fee award of over $3 million is perverse at best,” lawyers for the District said. “Instead, the “public interest” falls squarely on the shoulders of the District and its residents whose essential services are threatened by shrinking budgets, not the wallets of plaintiff’s counsel, which will be more than adequately filled under the fee proposed by the District.”
Lawyers for the city note in court papers that the Heller case has provided Gura “tremendous” career opportunities. “Few attorneys have the opportunity to argue a Supreme Court case, and fewer still have the opportunity to argue one of this significance,” the District lawyers wrote. “It was, literally, the opportunity of a lifetime and the first Supreme Court argument for plaintiffs’ counsel.”