A District of Columbia police officer wants a Virginia solo practitioner to pay more than $70,600 in legal fees and costs for a suit the lawyer filed alleging the official trumped up stalking charges against him.
The attorney, Matthew LeFande, and the police officer, Carolyn Mische-Hoeges, were in an eight-month relationship that soured in April 2010. That summer, LeFande, who has an office in Arlington, Va., ended up arrested on an attempted stalking charge.
LeFande in November 2010 sued his former girlfriend in a complaint in Washington federal district court that alleged, among other things, malicious prosecution and false arrest. He claimed Mische-Hoeges abused her position in the Metropolitan Police Department to secure an arrest warrant.
But a federal judge last month dismissed the suit’s civil rights claims, leaving in place state law claims that include defamation. Mische-Hoeges’ lawyers said they’ve had enough, and they want LeFande to pay up.
“LeFande’s lawsuit was nothing more than a continuation of the harassment and intimidation that led to his arrest, criminal prosecution, and entry of various protection orders against him,” Mische-Hoeges’ attorneys said in a motion (PDF) for legal fees and costs.
DimuroGinsberg partner Stephen Neal Jr., who represents Mische-Hoeges, said his client was not acting in her official capacity as a police officer when she reported allegations that LeFande stalked her. Neal said the police department’s internal affairs bureau investigated LeFande’s claims against Mische-Hoeges and found insufficient evidence. The U.S. Justice Department, Neal said, declined to prosecute his client.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia abandoned an attempted stalking case against LeFande last September. LeFande has long argued there was no probable cause for his arrest. His attorney, Horace Bradshaw Jr., a Washington solo practitioner, is fighting Mische-Hoege’s demand for fees.
In court papers (PDF) filed Thursday, Bradshaw said Mische-Hoeges and prosecutors have not “offered substantive argument refuting LeFande’s legal contentions.”
Mische-Hoeges twice didn’t succeed in getting a warrant in Virginia for LeFande’s arrest, Bradshaw said. LeFande accuses Mische-Hoeges of using her friends and co-workers at the police department as “proxies to initiate an unfounded prosecution against Mr. LeFande.”
Bradshaw also said U.S. District Judge Frederick Scullin Jr.’s recent dismissal of LeFande’s civil rights claims is “clearly antagonistic” with case law. And he said the judge’s rejection of the claims does not make Mische-Hoeges the “prevailing party” for purposes of an award of legal fees.
LeFande, his attorney said, could proceed with the case on the same factual basis and “conceivably obtain the same damages award for his injuries.” Bradshaw said Mische-Hoeges has failed to prove that LeFande’s suit against her was frivolous.
Bradshaw said he proposed a $10,000 settlement that would have covered LeFande’s legal fees. Mische-Hoeges called the offer absurd. “It required Mische-Hoeges, the victim, to pay LeFande for his stalking,” Neal said in court papers.
Mische-Hoeges’ lawyers said the $70,636 request for fees and costs is "more than reasonable." Neal said his law firm provided a reduced rate to Mische-Hoeges and wrote off some time. In some instances, he said, services were provided at no charge.
Court records show Dimuro name partner Bernard DiMuro charged Mische-Hoeges $380 hour when he could have billed her $709. Neal billed at $340 an hour; his hourly rate under one matrix is $589.
“If the court awards attorneys’ fees in this matter, LeFande will enjoy the benefit of these reductions and DiMuro’s reasonableness,” Neal said.
Scullin, a senior judge in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York, was appointed in September to preside over the case. He did not immediately rule on Mische-Hoeges’ request for fees.