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Wildlife Group Seeks $1.2M in Attorney Fees in Environmental Case

July 12, 2022 | Posted in : Billing Record / Entries, Fee Entitlement / Recoverability, Fee Request, Hourly Rates, Hours Billled, Practice Area: Civil Rights / Public Interest

A recent Law 360 story by Faith Williams, “Wildlife Org. Attys Seek $1.2M Fees in Marbled Murrelet Fight” reports that counsel who represented two Oregon wildlife organizations in a suit seeking to stop a timber company from cutting down trees in the habitat of a threatened seabird asked a federal judge to award them $1.2 million in attorney fees.  According to the motion filed in Oregon federal court, Cascadia Wildlands, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Audubon Society of Portland accumulated about $1.2 million in costs and fees based on detailed records from seven attorneys over an eight-year period.  However, the attorneys asked the court not to make a decision on the motion at this time, as the parties are continuing settlement discussions.

In June, U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken ruled in favor of the wildlife organizations, saying Scott Timber Co.'s "Benson Snake" logging operation would harm the marbled murrelet, a threatened species since 1992, and would constitute an unlawful "take."  The organizations' lead counsel, Daniel Kruse of Kruse & Saint Marie Attorneys at Law, has an hourly rate of $485.

Supporting counsel Charles Tebbutt of the Law Offices of Charles M. Tebbutt PC has an hourly rate of $650, while Daniel Snyder and Parker Jones of the same office have hourly rates of $425 and $250, respectively.  Meanwhile, Nicholas Cady, Cascadia Wildlands in-house counsel, receives $425 an hour.  Tanya Sanerib of the Center for Biological Diversity's hourly rate is $500, and Brian Segee of the same office receives $515 an hour.

The motion says the organizations' attorneys spent around 2,600 hours on the case including submitting required paperwork, preparing for trial and successfully litigating the case.  Judge Aiken said in his ruling the plaintiffs are entitled to reasonable attorney fees and costs.

According to the motion, the court is to adjust hourly rates based on inflation, which would increase each hourly rate by $50 to $100. Environmental litigation has also been recognized in Oregon federal court as a practice that requires specific knowledge, justifying increased rates.  Kruse has 16 years of experience as an environmental litigator and specific experience in suits pertaining to the conservation of marbled murrelets, the motion said.