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Judge agrees with Kansas AG: no abortion attorney payment

by | May 21, 2012

By Kathy Ostrowski, Legislative Director, Kansans for Life

Kansas pro-lifers got good news from a federal court May 18. Two Kansas city-area abortion clinics will have to pay their own attorney fees of over $220,000. Judge Carlos Murguia ruled the clinics had not “prevailed on the merits,” and thus did not qualify for state reimbursement, meaning Kansas’ taxpayers would not have to pay.

The narrative is very complicated. In brief attorneys from the Center for Women’s Health (CWH) and Aid for Women (AFW) had been petitioning for state payment of their attorney fees incurred when the clinics filed to halt both the new state abortion facility licensure law and the provisional clinic regulations written by the Kansas health department (KDHE).

The clinics had sought a permanent injunction in a rushed proceeding July 1, 2011, in front of federal Judge Murguia. They claimed they would suffer irreparable harm if the provisional clinic regulations went into effect that day. But Judge Murguia awarded only a temporary injunction, largely in order to “maintain the status quo” while issues moved forward.

In November 2011, when KDHE issued permanent abortion facility regulations, using a slightly modified version of the original set, both clinics dropped the federal lawsuit. However the injunction was retained and the lawsuit was re-filed in state court by only one clinic, CWH.

The office of Attorney General Derek Schmidt had filed motions opposing paying all the abortion attorneys involved. Schmidt argued the abortion clinics were not entitled because such reimbursement is available for “claimants who had prevailed on the merits” in civil rights cases.  [Yes, this is a civil rights case because (hold your groans) one of the claims is that clinic regulation violates a woman’s civil right to obtain an abortion.]

Beyond arguing that the clinics were ineligible to be reimbursed, the Attorney General also argued that abortion attorneys’ fees were inaccurate, duplicative, and unreasonable. The AG’s office cited:

  • $78,000 in charges that were not part of attaining the injunction,  
  • inexperienced attorneys billed for nearly double the rate that attorneys experienced in this specialty can command, 
  • expense accounts padded and the amount of time spent on legal tasks inflated.

The irony is evident: abortion advocates have been complaining that the defense of pro-life laws is a wasteful depletion of the treasury, and then their own attorneys try to rip-off that same treasury!

Thankfully, that won’t happen at this juncture, due to the litigators working for the AG office.

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