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Missouri Attorney General Strikes Back At Trinity Lutheran’s Request For $884,000 In Legal Fees

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Joshua Gill Religion Reporter

Trinity Lutheran Church requested $884,000 in legal fees at tax payers’ expense for its 2017 Supreme Court case, but the Missouri attorney general called the request excessive.

Trinity Lutheran won its Supreme Court case in which justices ruled that the Department of Natural Resources could not refuse public funds to an organization on the grounds that it was religious in nature. The church now seeks $830,915 in legal fees to pay attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom and $53,840 in expenses. Attorney General Josh Hawley praised the ruling in favor of the church, but has asked that the church’s attorneys reduce their fees and seek a lesser amount more in line with market rates. (RELATED: ‘A Prejudiced Policy’ — Missouri Gov Tells Us Why He’s Reversing Anti-Religious Policy At The Heart Of SCOTUS Case)

The calculation of the fees include rates of up to $695 for four attorneys who worked 1,693.94 hours and expenses, including “luxury travel accommodation and dinner for plaintiff’s representatives,” according to Columbia Daily Tribune.

“All have exercised billing judgment and reduced their requested hours to avoid duplicative time, excessive time, and other factors,” ADF attorney Erik Stanley said.

Hawley’s office requested that the attorneys cut each of their hourly rates by 35 percent and limit their total hours to 1,155.11, bringing their total request to $386,057.

Hawley also called into question the amount of hours that the attorneys worked, specifically in the case of ADF lead attorney David Cortman.

“And, while one would reasonably expect someone in his position to spend time listening to oral arguments and reading cases, Mr. Cortman listened to an amazing 125 plus hours of oral arguments, and spent more than 150 hours reading cases,” Hawley’s motion reads. “He also spent about 55 hours preparing for and participating in moot (simulated) courts.”

Hawley added that it is “unreasonable to ask Missouri taxpayers to pay a large attorneys’ fees.”

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