TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY

Local News

September 6, 2012

LRC to review legal fees for re-districting

CORBIN — By Ronnie Ellis / CNHI News Service

Attorneys for lawmakers who successfully sued to have a legislative re-districting plan ruled unconstitutional have negotiated an amount for their legal fees which a Franklin Circuit Judge ordered the legislature to pay.

Legislative Research Director Bobby Sherman confirmed Wednesday the lawyers for the plaintiffs have submitted a price for their legal services, but he declined to say how much it is and said the LRC will review the offer before deciding to approve it.

Sherman said he’s “been in contact with counsel and I kind of know where it stands,” but he declined to name an amount.

He said the question isn’t whether the LRC — made up of legislative leaders from both parties and both chambers and co-chaired by Senate President David Williams and House Speaker Greg Stumbo — will pay the fees but instead if the LRC will agree to the negotiated amount.

Sherman said if the LRC should object to the submitted amount, Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd would then determine the amount.

Lawmakers from both parties declined to talk about the fees. House Republican Caucus Chairman Bob DeWeese and Minority Whip Danny Ford said they have not seen the proposal. “That’s something the Speaker and the President of the Senate and Bobby Sherman will have to negotiate,” said Democratic Speaker Pro Tem Larry Clark who also said he has not seen a specific proposal or amount.

John David Dyche, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs, declined to say how much the attorneys proposed as a settlement.

The attorney who represented the LRC in the suit, Sheryl Snyder, submitted a fee of just under $20,000 for his work — but that amount covered work prior to Shepherd’s ruling on attorney fees. Snyder continues to represent the LRC in the case and his final bill may exceed the earlier amount.

Shepherd’s order directed attorneys to submit an agreed order by this Friday on a final amount. If the two sides can’t agree, the plaintiffs must file arguments in support of their request, supported by copies of time and expense reports of their attorneys, by Sept. 14.

The LRC would be granted time to oppose that request.

The state legislative re-districting plan was drawn by majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly — Democrats in the House and Republicans in the Senate — to benefit the electoral interests of their own incumbents.

It placed several House Republicans in the same districts and split 28 counties. The Senate map put two Democrats in the same district and re-numbered another to make incumbent Democratic Sen. Kathy Stein ineligible to run for re-election this year. Both plans deviated from a standard established by previous court rulings that no district vary by more than plus or minus 5 percent from the ideal population size for districts.

House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover, Rep. Joe Fischer, Rep. Kim King and two private citizens, Anthony Gados of Vanceburg and Frey Todd of Eubank, challenged the constitutionality of the plan. Later, Stein was allowed to intervene in the case.

Shepherd ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, including Stein, and his ruling was later upheld by the Kentucky Supreme Court. Shepherd subsequently ruled the plaintiffs are entitled to have their attorney fees paid by the LRC and ordered attorneys to negotiate that amount.

This year’s state legislative elections are conducted under the previous, existing map. Lawmakers will try again to draw a new map after the November election.

RONNIE ELLIS writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at rellis@cnhi.com. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.

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