ACLU seeks $3.3 million in legal fees for citizenship case

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The American Civil Liberties Union is seeking $3.3 million in legal fees after prevailing in its legal battle to stop the state’s proof-of-citizenship requirement for registering to vote.

The ACLU filed a motion in federal court asking a judge to award legal fees that would cover the cost of 9,678  hours spent on the case and another 682 hours for paralegal work.

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court  turned away Kansas’ request to uphold the proof-of- citizenship law after two lower-court rulings found that it was unconstitutional because it imposed an obstacle to voting.

“The substantial time devoted to this matter is reasonable in light of the length and
complexity of these proceedings,” the ACLU said in its motion.

“Generally speaking, voting rights litigation is quite complex,” the ACLU argued in its brief.

“This case in particular spanned almost five years, and featured preliminary injunction proceedings; substantial fact and expert discovery, including discovery-related sanctions imposed on defendant; a seven-day trial featuring 21 witnesses, followed by extensive proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law from the parties,” the ACLU said.

The ACLU blamed former Secretary of State Kris Kobach for driving up the number of hours spent on the case.

Kobach personally tried the case, leading him to being held in contempt of court and ordered to enroll in continuing education classes.

“Moreover, the number of hours was exacerbated by the defendant’s recalcitrance in
litigating this case, and his dilatory conduct in discovery and compliance proceedings, which necessitated substantial motions practices, including a motion for sanctions and two separate motions for contempt,” the ACLU said.

The fees for the lawyers in the case ranged anywhere from $195 an hour to $500 an hour with paralegals earning $110 an hour.

The secretary of state’s office could not comment on the motion Friday afternoon. A spokesman for the attorney general said the filing was under review.

Three years ago, U.S.District Judge Julie Robinson ordered Kobach to pay $26,000 in legal fees and expenses after being held in contempt of court while defending the state’s proof-of-citizenship requirement for voters.

The amount ultimately was reduced to $20,000 and paid by the secretary of state’s office.