LA Times: County Ordered to Pay Attorneys’ Fees

May 29, 1998
By Press

Ventura County must pay $371,000 in attorneys’ fees to a law firm representing eight black deputies who are suing the county over alleged racial discrimination and harassment within the Sheriff’s Department.

Attorneys for the deputies had sought more than $1 million in compensation for six years of settlement negotiations in one part of the lawsuit, said Frank Sieh, chief assistant in the county counsel’s office.

In a written ruling issued Wednesday in Los Angeles, U.S. District Court Judge Lourdes G. Baird reduced the fees because the settlement negotiations had produced only limited results, Sieh said.

In 1996, settlement talks ended with sheriff’s officials agreeing to change the name of its Minority Relations Committee to the Employee Relations Committee, provide more training for committee members and better handle deputies’ complaints, Sieh said.

But many of the settlement points were already in the works, Sieh said.

“The plaintiffs claimed success for something that would have happened in the absence of litigation,” Sieh said.

Barry Litt, the lead attorney for the deputies, did not return a phone call to his Los Angeles office Thursday.

The judge also rejected an argument that additional fees should be paid out because of the difficulty and uncertainty of any civil rights case, Sieh said. In some civil rights cases, those types of fees are awarded, he said.

The deputies filed their suit last year after a settlement could not be reached on their claims of being injured and damaged as a result of alleged discrimination and harassment, Sieh said. The suit was expected to go to trial early next year, he said.

Source: Los Angeles Times