Updated 9:10 a.m. 10/29/2013
Attorneys from Williams & Connolly and Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz are seeking more than $200,000 in legal fees and costs for their work fighting a libel suit filed in September 2012 against Foreign Policy magazine and a writer.
Yasser Abbas, the son of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, sued Foreign Policy over a June 2012 article written by Jonathan Schanzer, vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Schanzer was also a defendant. U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan dismissed the case on Sept. 30. Abbas intends to take the fight to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
Williams & Connolly partner Kevin Baine, who focuses on First Amendment work, and associates Adam Tarosky and Elise Baumgarten, are seeking $100,481 in legal fees and costs. Levine Sullivan partner Nathan Siegel, an attorney for Schanzer, is asking for $107,174 in fees. Siegel worked on the case with Levine partner Seth Berlin and associate Shaina Jones. (Schanzer had his owner lawyers; he was not an employee of Foreign Policy.)
Baine said in a declaration, accompanying the Oct. 25 fee request, that Williams & Connolly gave Foreign Policy a 10 percent discount on rates. With the discount, Baine billed at $765 an hour. Baine said he clocked a little more than 25 hours in the case. Tarosky and Baumgarten submitted hourly rates of $409.50 and $342, respectively. (On top of the discount, Williams & Connolly, which employs about 250 lawyers, said the firm further reduced its fees in the case by an average of 12 percent per month.)
Tarosky, a sixth-year associate, and Baumgarten, a third-year associate, worked nearly 234 hours defending Foreign Policy magazine, accourding to Baine's declaration. At the time the suit was filed, The Washington Post, for whom Baine had previously performed legal work over 30 years, owned Foreign Policy. Baine declined to comment today on the fee request.
Levine Sullivan, a boutique firm with 34 lawyers who specialize in First Amendment and media litigation, charged Schanzer an hourly rate of $390 for work and $195 for paralegals. The firm said in court papers that the rates were “as requested and negotiated by Dr. Schanzer’s insurer.” The rate amounted to a 20 percent discount from $575 rate that Siegel and Berlin typically charge, according to court records in the case. Levine Sullivan lawyers said the firm performed nearly 250 hours of attorney work for Schanzer. Siegel, based in Washington, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Baine and Siegel defended their legal fee request in the court filing. The attorneys compared their rates to other Washington lawyers with similar experience in the law. The attorneys pointed to a recent case where U.S. District Judge Richard Leon in Washington awarded attorneys for McKesson Corp. more than $450,000 in fees.
“[T]he rates charged by W&C are materially lower than rates recently approved by courts in this jurisdiction for attorneys of comparable reputation and experience in large law firms. Judge Leon, for example, recently approved rates for attorneys at Winston & Strawn of $780–810 for a senior partner, $525 for a fifth-year associate, and $390 for a first-year associate, all of which exceed the rates charged here.”