A Washington federal trial judge yesterday approved $434,000 in attorney fees to Winston & Strawn for its work in the past year in a decades-long legal fight over interests in an Iranian dairy. The money isn't a sure thing just yet, though. Iran said it plans to appeal.
Plaintiff McKesson Corp. sued the Iranian government in 1982, accusing the country of expropriating its interests in a dairy created before the Iranian Revolution in 1979. The case has gone up to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit at least a half dozen times, and is pending again before the appeals court following a March judgment against Iran for $40.5 million.
Iran appealed that order, which included $10 million in attorney fees for work performed by McKesson's lawyers from 2000 to 2012. Yesterday's order from U.S. District Judge Richard Leon covered McKesson's legal fees from mid-2012 through April of this year. "Iran is planning to appeal the latest order, just as it appealed the prior fee awards," Iran's attorney, Christopher Wright of Wiltshire & Grannis, said in an email.
A lead attorney for McKesson, Mark Bravin of Winston & Strawn, co-chair of the firm’s international arbitration practice, declined to comment.
According to yesterday's order, Winston charged for 716 hours of lawyer time and 32 hours of paralegal time spent on the case from July 2012 through April 2013. Associate Eric Goldstein billed the most time on the case during that period, according to information the firm submitted to the court: 386 hours. His hourly rate went up from $460 in 2012 to $525 this year.
Bravin and partner Gene Schaerr, who leads the firm’s appellate and constitutional litigation practice, charged the highest rates. Bravin, who performed 278 hours on the case over the past year, charged $780 per hour in 2012 and $810 per hour this year. Schaerr, who spent seven hours on the case, billed at hourly rates of $970 in 2012 and $995 this year.
Iran has challenged McKesson's claims for attorney fees in the past, arguing the court didn't have jurisdiction to issue them and questioning the reasonableness of the rates charged by Winston and Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, which was also involved. From 2000 to 2012, McKesson said its lawyers billed more than 18,500 hours.
Leon previously found that Iranian law allowed for the award of attorney fees, and that the rates charged by McKesson's lawyers were reasonable. In his opinion yesterday, he found the rates were reasonable given the lawyers' experience and skill level, "the tasks performed were appropriate and necessary, and the case was efficiently staffed." Leon also awarded Winston $17,000 in costs.
Briefing before the D.C. Circuit is scheduled to end in late November. No date has been set yet for arguments.