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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Woodruff says his $1M fee saves CNMI govt nearly $13.8M

Betty Johnson’s local counsel, Stephen C. Woodruff, states that his petition for $1.01 million in attorney’s fees would save the CNMI government nearly $13.8 million when applying a Ninth Circuit benchmark.

In his reply to support his petition for attorney’s fees, Woodruff said the benchmark reasonable fee is 25 percent of the benefit to the class.

In Johnson’s case, Woodruff said, the benefit to the class has been calculated at $591.22 million.

Accordingly, he said, a reasonable attorney’s fees for class counsel in this case is 25 percent of that amount, about $147.8 million.

He said he had indicated to the U.S. District Court for the NMI that his share should be 10 percent of that amount or roughly $14.8 million if the Ninth Circuit benchmark were applied.

“But class counsel are not seeking anywhere near that amount,” he said.

Instead, Woodruff said, they have asked for only 5 percent of the benefit of the class.

In other words, he said, he and other co-counsels—Bronster Hoshibata law firm and Bruce Jorgensen—are asking for only a fifth, i.e., 20 percent of that to which they are entitled to according to the Ninth Circuit benchmark.

The Honolulu-based Bronster Hoshibata law firm is seeking $17.5 million in attorney’s fees and costs; Jorgensen is demanding $18.6 million, $29.6 million, or $38.9 million. Attorney Timothy Lord, who is based in San Rafael, California, is asking for either $3.6 million or $5.9 million.

U.S. District Court for the NMI designated judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood on Monday did not rule on the petition for attorneys’ fees and costs. Instead, she directed the counsels and the CNMI government to talk about the issue with Hawaii chief bankruptcy judge Robert Faris, who conducted the settlement discussions in Johnson’s class action.

In his reply to support his petition, Woodruff said that applying the 5 percent percentage-of-benefit to the class and a 10-percent share, his fee request would amount to $2,956,096, nearly $12 million less than it would be applying the Ninth Circuit benchmark.

Using a lodestar with multiplier method, he said, he requested only $1,012,500.

Woodruff said the class counsels have already shown sensitivity to the burden the payment of attorneys’ fees imposes on the CNMI government by suggesting that their fees may be payable over a period of years rather than all at once.

Woodruff expressed a commitment to submit detailed time records to the court as may be necessary to determine a final fee award.

He also stated his readiness to submit additional confidential information to the court tending to support a higher fee award.

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