Attorney Stephen C. Woodruff, local counsel for Betty Johnson, submitted yesterday in federal court a petition for approval of his attorney’s fees in the amount of $1,012,500.
Woodruff said that based on his experience in the past year and a half working on Johnson’s lawsuit with co-counsel, he believes 10 percent of an award of fees based on a percentage of the benefit-of-the-class of the litigation would be an appropriate share for him.
Woodruff said in the more than 17 months since undertaking his representation for Johnson, he has provided not less than 300 hours of professional services.
He said his standard billing rate for work performed on an hourly basis is $225 per hour so a lodestar fee computation for him is less than $67,500, with a multiplier of 15, for a total award of attorney’s fees in an amount less than $1,012,500.
On Tuesday, the Honolulu-based law firm Bronster Hoshibata, one of the counsels for Johnson, asked the court to approve its attorneys’ fees and costs totaling $17.5 million.
Also on Tuesday, attorney Bruce Jorgensen, Johnson’s first and current counsel, also requested for approval of his costs in the amount of $4,643.17. On his attorney’s fees, he was not very specific on the amount, but Saipan Tribune’s computation with the help of a lawyer showed he was asking for either $18.6 million, $29.6 million, or $38.9 million.
The hearing on Johnson’s attorneys’ fees and costs will be on Sept. 30, 2013, which is also the date for the final approval of the settlement agreement in her class action.
In his petition, Woodruff said he accepted “extraordinary risk” in undertaking his representation for Johnson and that risk was compounded exponentially by accepting it on a contingency basis.
As local counsel for Johnson, he said he assumed a duty to be familiar with every document and pleading and play an active role in every aspect of the litigation.
He said he contributed substantially to the success achieved on behalf of the class, particularly during the settlement negotiations and by providing off-island counsel with in-depth understanding of location situation, legal history and background, and legal and evidentiary resources.
Woodruff said not only did he accept the risk of reprisal associated with taking on the case, but he has basis to believe that he is in fact “a victim of reprisal from the powerful and persons with conflicting interests as a result of his involvement in this case and his advocacy on behalf of causes unpopular with certain elements of the community, and political and economic elites.”
Under the settlement agreement, the CNMI government agreed to pay Johnson’s attorneys’ fees and costs, and a $7,500 service award for bringing the lawsuit on behalf of other class members against the NMI Retirement Fund and the government.
U. S. District Court for the NMI designated judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood preliminarily approved the settlement agreement in Johnson’s lawsuit on Aug. 6.