Another lawyer based in San Rafael, California, claims that he is also one of the counsels for Betty Johnson and submitted in federal court a petition for approval of his attorney’s fees in the amount either $3.6 million or $5.9 million.
Attorney Timothy R. Lord asked the U.S. District Court for the NMI on Friday to grant his petition and award him professional fees, using either the lodestar method or the percentage-of-the-fund approach.
Under the lodestar method, Lord said he spent 717.4 hours of professional services at a rate of $325, totaling $233,155; along with his paralegal’s 34.5 hours at a rate of $175 per hour, totaling $6,037.50, for a cumulative base amount of $239,192.50
With a multiplier of 15, Lord said this would yield a lodestar method award of $3,587,887.50.
Lodestar refers to a method adopted for calculating attorneys’ fees where the court multiplies a reasonable hourly rate by a reasonable number of hours expended.
As an alternative, Lord said, under the percentage-of-the-fund approach, the value of the benefit obtained for the class by the settlement is at least $591,219,229.
Lord said that given the enormous risk undertaken in taking this case and the “excellent results for the class,” he proposes that 1 percent of the value of the benefit of the NMI Retirement Fund is an appropriate award.
Lord said a 1-percent attorney’s fee for award based on the percentage-of-the-fund analysis would yield an attorney’s fee award of $5,912,192.29.
This latest application for attorney’s fee would bring the total attorneys’ fees and costs submitted by Johnson’s four counsels—Lord, Honolulu-based Bronster Hoshibata law firm, Bruce Jorgensen, and local counsel Stephen C. Woodruff—to at least $40.6 million.
Bronster Hoshibata is seeking $17.5 million; Jorgensen either $18.6 million, $29.6 million, or $38.9 million; and Woodruff $1,012,500.
It is not clear if Johnson has another attorney or law firm that might also seek fees.
Honolulu-based attorney Jared Washkowitz filed a lien in Johnson’s case in federal court last month, saying he rendered 19.7 hours of legal services worth $6,205.50 to then unnamed plaintiffs. One of the unnamed plaintiffs was later disclosed as Johnson.
In his application for attorney’s fee, Lord disclosed that it was over four years ago, in the spring of 2009, that Jorgensen contacted him regarding a potential action against the CNMI government to recover on a default judgment obtained by the Fund against the CNMI government for its refusal to meet payment obligations to retirees.
Lord said that realizing that the solvency of the Fund and the security of the retirees were in peril, he promptly sent a proposal to the Fund to represent it in an action in federal court against the government.
Lord said the offer was rejected out of hand by the Fund’s board and its counsels.
Subsequently, Lord said he and Jorgensen determined that the best and perhaps only way to save the Fund from insolvency was “to take the matter into their own hands and seek to wrest control of the Fund from political forces” into the hands of a receiver appointed by a non-biased U.S. District Court judge.
“The result was the filing of this action,” said Lord, referring to Johnson’s class action against the CNMI government and the Fund.
At the time the suit was filed, Lord said he and Jorgensen knew that as solo practitioners they had very little chance of success against the government, given its access to virtually unlimited funds (including those of the retirees) and its “unbridled political power.”
Nonetheless, Lord said he and Jorgensen believed in the cause and filed this lawsuit.
“Suffice it to say, they underestimated the resolve of the government, which took every conceivable action to thwart and delay the recovery of the lawful judgment, including a spectacularly failed attempt to bankrupt the Fund,” he said.
After three years of struggle, Lord said it was determined that they would need to bring in the greater resources and experience of the Bronster Hoshibata law firm and also the “courageous representation” of local counsel of Woodruff.
In the early stages of the case, Lord said he employed a highly competent paralegal, Shawn Adams, to take charges of the court filings, which were voluminous and usually performed under tight deadlines and time constraints.
When the case went up on appeal, Lord said he was able to engage the services of a colleague, Jared Washkowitz, to research, draft, and file the appropriate and necessary briefs.
The hearing on the attorneys’ fees and costs will be held on Sept. 30, 2013, which is also the date for the final approval of the settlement agreement.
Timothy R. Lord: $3.6 million or $5.9 million
Bronster Hoshibata: $17.5 million
Bruce Jorgensen: $18.6 million, $29.6 million, or $38.9 million
Stephen C. Woodruff: $1,012,500