January 28, 2004
Nice work if you can get it
You can add this to the total cost of reredistricting in 2003: Lawyer Andy Taylor will bill the state for over $700,000 of legal work.
Andy Taylor, a Houston-based attorney, has charged $400 per hour of his time, $200 per hour for work by another lawyer and assorted expenses for travel and payment to expert witnesses, according to state documents examined Wednesday by The Associated Press.
A total of $444,437 in bills from Taylor's law firm have been paid by the state, according to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott's office.
Some $290,960 of the bill is expected to be paid in early February. It was charged for work in December, when Taylor defended the state at trial in a lawsuit alleging the redistricting plan violates minority voting rights.
Abbott, through his spokeswoman, said it was the right decision to hire a private lawyer to represent the state.
"Redistricting is one of the most complex areas of the law. The Attorney General's Office felt it was prudent to have the most experienced Texas lawyer on redistricting to lead a team of state legal experts, in order to defend the state of Texas," said spokeswoman Angela Hale.
Among the details outlined in Taylor's bills is time spent in court, on legal research, in telephone conferences and attending depositions for witnesses such as U.S. Rep. Martin Frost, D-Arlington and state Rep. Ron Wilson, D-Houston.
Some bills are for expert witnesses or court reporters, although the vast majority are for attorneys' fees. Billing records show 18 or 19 hours worked by Taylor per day during the December trial.
Taylor said he expects state-employed attorneys to work on the appeal. "I don't envision any more costs at this point for my firm," he said.
Frankly, I think he ought to get paid out of one of Tom DeLay's slush funds - it shouldn't take more than one of his corporate shakedowns to raise that kind of cash. For those keeping score at home, by the way, Taylor's bill would pay for 294 Teacher Excellence Incentive
awards, with a few bucks left over for certificates.
Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 28, 2004 to Killer D's
I know this is easy to get upset about when you're on the other side. I know I would be upset.
But really, this isn't even noteworthy. Quality legal counsel is very, very expensive. As a matter of course, state ought to employ quality legal counsel, and Taylor is undeniably the best. In fact, he may be the only real redistricting law expert in the state.
Frankly, I'm surprised that the bill is that small. Taylor's hourly rate must be lower than I would expect.
I'm going to have to agree that the hourly rate isn't surprising for an expert in the field. As a former paralegal--one who used to run bills for hourly legal services on occasion--the charges seem high, but not excessive, for top-notch counsel.
However, I can't speak to the quality of the counsel and you know what I think of the whole thing.
I just can't help but think that if the laws that exist to protect minority voting rights are so complicated that you need to hire somebody who bills out at $400/hour to handle the case, it's going to be tough to protect those rights. Especially when the government is funding the other side.
Taylor is the best. He probably -- since he's a Republican -- tried to keep the bill down so that it wouldn't attract much political criticism.
And Luis, surely you agree that the state ought to defend the state's position in court.
Lawyers are expensive -- too expensive if you ask me, but that's what the market puts their services at. For example, I've worked on cases where we billed the client 5 million PER MONTH.
Clearly I'm in the wrong line of work, or maybe just in the wrong political party. Nobody pays my tiny business even half that hourly rate (even on the rare occasions I've worked for the State of Texas), I have to do real work for what I get, and I don't get to screw half the voters in the state in behalf of my partisan politics in the process. Obviously it pays to be a friend of DeLay.
Oh, and FWIW, I'm "another Rice grad."
Steve-- well, I know a few attorneys whose hourly rates are $750. Taylor charged a mere $400, which is a very reasonable price these days. I'm shocked that is hourly rate is so low.
So, if you want to believe that Taylor got his money because he's a Republican, then do so. But realize that your opinion isn't supported by the facts.
I don't actually begrudge Taylor the money. He won his case, so he can certainly say he earned it. My annoyance is as always with the priorities of our state's leadership, who saw fit to spend millions of dollars (which includes Taylor's fees) on this unnecessary fight when things like health care are getting gutted.
I don't think Aunt Bee would be proud of Andy.
Kuff, the defendant doesn't have a choice whether to spend money on lawyers. It's the plaintiff who decides if a suit gets filed. The "blame," if you want to call it that, for this expenditure from the state's funds falls squarely on those who initiated the lawsuits. And if one broadens the focus from legal fees to overall expenditures, likewise, the "blame" for the expenditures ought fairly to be placed on those who forced three special sessions.
Legislative redistricting isn't an option. It's a constitutional necessity; it's one of the main duties performed by state legislatures in our federal system.
Just to be clear, I put scare quotes around "blame" above because I frankly don't think anyone is to blame. "Responsibility" would probably be a better term, and even that word implies a moral disapproval that I don't think is justifiable.
Redistricting is political hardball, and the story in 2003 was that the game was played so fiercely (if not always well) by both sides that it went into extra innings. This stuff was genuinely important, even though it tended to induce MEGO (my eyes glaze over) reactions among most of the public. I know you know that otherwise you wouldn't have invested so much time and energy of your own in covering and commenting on the story. I'm frankly not perturbed by the time, effort, or expense invested by anyone in this process, given the stakes. I frankly don't know why you call it an "unnecessary fight"; I can't imagine arguing that either side should have just rolled over and quit.
I understand what you're saying, Beldar, but this comes back to something that the two of us see differently, which is that I believe this fight should have occurred in 2001. Once Governor Perry chose to let the courts sort it out at that time, that should have been the end of it. If strict adherence to the state's Constitutional procedure was of such vital interest, then it should have been done properly, which is to say at the appointed time. The fact that it wasn't is entirely the Governor's responsibility.
Like I said, this is a place where we disagree. Nonetheless, redistricting in 2003 was a choice, one which the Attorney General said did not have to be made. That is why I call it "unnecessary".
Regardless of whether redistricting should have happened, it did happen. And there was a suit over state policy. The state should do what is necessary to defend that policy.
And by the way, Taylor only charged $200 for an associate? Why so low? Beldar?
Re rates, from someone who's admittedly biased, but who's in the business and has testified several times on this topic in court:
Taylor has been in practice for 18 years and is a partner at Bracewell & Patterson, a large and well-regarded Texas law firm. He appears to be very well qualified in a practice area that does not have a lot of competitors, and I'm quite certain that he was obliged to drop pretty much everything else that was on his docket in order to take on these cases. Four hundred dollars per hour for a lawyer of his seniority and credentials on this kind of case is well within the range of what I'd expect to see charged, and in fact probably on the lower end. For example, our new mayor's former law partner Lee Godfrey, who apparently was involved in the trial on the plaintiffs' side, probably charges twice that as his regular hourly rate although Lee may well have been contributing his time for free on this case (given his and his firm's political leanings and activism).
Rates for younger associates vary quite a bit. The big Texas firms generally matched or nearly matched the starting salary insanity that spread eastward from the California dot-com boom a few years ago, but they've had a hard time passing those costs along to clients who aren't quite yet willing to pay New York or San Francisco rates in Houston or Dallas or San Antonio. There are still new associates from top-tier Texas firms whose time can be had for less than $200 per hour, but only the junior ones, and not for very much less than $200. If only one associate worked with Taylor and it was someone at a $200 rate, that suggests very lean staffing.
The gross fee amount, likewise, is easily within the range of what would appear reasonable, and from a macroscopic analysis (without benefit of seeing individual lawyers' time entries), it certainly doesn't appear to be the product of churning or overstaffing. It would not have surprised me to have seen a bill for twice this amount.
I wasn't ever able to observe any of the hearings or the trial, but I read most of the written output from both sides, and it was pretty high quality. It may seem odd for the State to be pictured as the "David" in a "David vs. Goliath" fight, but that's not inapt multiple plaintiff groups, represented by multiple sets of lawyers, including heavy-hitters like Godfrey and out-of-state specialists in election law gave the plaintiffs a substantial intrinsic advantage over the folks from the AG's office. Their desire to involve Taylor was probably not only smart, but also cost-effective for the State in a big-picture sense.
Once Governor Perry chose to let the courts sort it out at that time, that should have been the end of it. If strict adherence to the state's Constitutional procedure was of such vital interest, then it should have been done properly, which is to say at the appointed time. The fact that it wasn't is entirely the Governor's responsibility.
What was the Governor Perry's Constitutional responsibility that he failed to fulfill in 2001?
We've has this discussion before and the consensus was that this allegation is baseless.