ACLU wants Utah to pay nearly $200,000 for gay marriage recognition case

Posted at 5:09 PM, Nov 10, 2014
and last updated 2014-11-11 19:37:37-05

SALT LAKE CITY — The ACLU is asking for Utah taxpayers to shell out nearly $200,000 for a legal battle over same-sex marriage recognition.

In two separate filings, the ACLU and other attorneys sought money for fees and costs. They asked a federal judge in Utah to order the state to pay $164,000 for their work on Evans v. Utah. They ask for another $33,000 in a filing with the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday.

Read the filing in U.S. District Court in Utah here:

“There was a significant need for expediency in the case as the Plaintiffs, and the other 1,000 plus couples, suffered real harm each day the Defendants withheld from these couples the constitutionally guaranteed privileges of other legally married couples. Additionally, the novel and complex issues involved in the case required a great deal of time,” attorneys wrote in a filing justifying the cost.

Read the filing with the 10th Circuit Court here:

The Utah Attorney General’s Office said in a statement to FOX 13 on Tuesday that the amount sought is “unreasonable.”

Read the statement here:

“After negotiations with plaintiffs counsel for reasonable fees broke down, plaintiffs in the Evans case filed two fee motions, one in federal district court and one in the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, totaling nearly $200,000, for a matter that was essentially one motion of significance and one court hearing lasting approximately an hour or less. At the time the State withdrew its appeal before the Tenth Circuit, the State had been the prevailing party in getting the United States Supreme Court to stay the district court’s injunction. Negotiations broke down because items presented included billing for multiple press conferences, multiple billings for several lawyers to do a single job, and even included a bill entry for over $200 for one attorney’s ‘crying and gnashing of teeth’ in response to the United States Supreme Court granting a stay. The Attorney General’s Office found these requests unreasonable and will address the discrepancies in court. We trust that the district court and Tenth Circuit will make equitable determinations.”

“It was the state refusing to honor these marriages that made the lawsuit necessary in the first place,” ACLU of Utah Legal Director John Mejia said in response Tuesday.

The state alone paid nearly $300,000 to defend the main case involving same-sex marriage, Kitchen v. Herbert, in which Utah’s Amendment 3 was struck down. The National Center for Lesbian Rights, which was co-counsel in the Kitchen case, said they were not seeking attorney’s fees from the state.

If the ACLU prevails on fees in the Evans case, it appears Utah will have paid at least $500,000 to fight same-sex marriage in the state.

Four same-sex couples who married in the days after Amendment 3 was overturned sued the state after Governor Gary Herbert ordered government agencies not to recognize same-sex marriage. A federal judge ordered the state to recognize them and Utah appealed to the 10th Circuit Court.

The case was gearing up for litigation when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the state’s appeal of Amendment 3, making same-sex marriage legal once again in Utah. Within days, the state backed out of all of its litigation involving same-sex marriage and the governor directed state agencies to recognize the unions.