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Judge Supports Increase in Legal Fees

It isn't often that an appellate judge seeks to overturn fact findings by the lower court, and it's even less frequent when the judge supports a higher award of attorney fees than that court issued. But as Pam Smith of Legal Press writes here, that's the scenario in Maughan v. Google, where Justice Miriam Vogel argued that the lower court judge erred in cutting Google's request for attorney fees after prevailing on an anti-SLAPP (strategic litigation against public participation) motion. Google filed the motion in response to the plaintiff's defamation action, claiming damage to reputation resulting from Google searches, which  generated links to numerous Web sites suggesting that he had been disciplined by the California Board of Accountancy. Google sought to recover $112,289 in legal fees and costs; the lower court judge awarded a mere $23,000.

In a 16-page dissent, Justice Vogel (who brought her own experience as a private law firm litigator to bear on her assessment of fees) wrote:

“The anti-SLAPP motion was not a cut-and-paste project,” Vogel wrote. And there was the fact that the plaintiff had hired “one of the preeminent plaintiff’s firms in town … who had to know their presence would justifiably provoke a full court press.”

Vogel also complimented an affidavit submitted by Google that explained how its search engine technology did not allow for any discretionary human editing or alteration, stating that:

And I know from my own experience how many lawyer hours it takes to translate an expert’s technical jargon into an explanation that can be absorbed by a judge.

The other justices did not agree, buying the lower court's reasoning that Google's attorneys, as experts in the types of cutting-edge issues raised by the suit, should not have required as much time as they devoted to the issues raised. 

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on October 12, 2006 at 03:51 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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