In late June King County Superior Court Judge Dean Lum ruled that a lawsuit filed by the City of Seattle against attorney James Egan was "completely unnecessary." The lawsuit stemmed from one of Egan's favorite pastimes - making public records requests for SPD dash cam videos - and it was filed by City Attorney Pete Holmes as part of a bigger drama that also included a court case involving KOMO News and the agency's dissatisfaction with the way the city handles the release of dash cam videos.
Egan requested 36 SPD dash-cam videos under the Public Records Act, was denied, threatened to sue the City, and was subsequently sued himself in an act Holmes has classified as an attempt to obtain "guidance" from the courts when it comes to the release of dash-cam videos.
In making his June ruling, Lum had some harsh words for the courtroom tactics employed by the City, which, at the time the Egan lawsuit was filed was already embroiled in a similar lawsuit with KOMO over the release of dash-cam videos. While Judge Lum disagreed with Egan's assertion that the City's lawsuit amounted to a SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation), Egan was awarded his legal fees - which at the time he told Seattle Weekly were estimated to be six figures.
As it turns out, he'll get far less than that.
That's because Lum ruled last week to award Egan $14,676.25 in fees, substantially less than the $64,855.75 or $83,383.75 court documents show Egan requested.
Despite the fact the total awarded to Egan is less than what he requested. Kimberly Mills, a spokesperson for the City Attorney's Office, confirms the city is appealing the decision - hoping to whittle it down even further. Egan has appealed the court's SLAPP ruling.
At the root of the monetary discrepancy are what court documents describe as the "block billing" tactics Egan used to calculate what he believes the city owes him for his time. As court documents note, "Defendant's 'block billing' has made it very difficult for the Court to determine the reasonableness and necessity of attorney's fees and costs requested in this case. ... The Court finds that defendant James Egan's reasonable and necessary fees were $14,675.25 (49.75 hours x $295 per hour). The requested fees of $64,855.75 or $83.383.75 are unreasonable."
"It's less than I asked for, but nonetheless it's significant," says Egan of the award. "The reality is that's what it cost me. That's what it cost me in lost business. I run a very successful DUI defense firm. I had to put clients' cases on hold. I had to limit the number of cases I would take. I had to direct other associate lawyers to work on researching my case and briefing. And, so, I find it a little off that the ruling just ignores the work that attorneys did on my behalf."
Though Egan isn't thrilled with the total he's been awarded, he points out that the $14,675.25 comes at taxpayers' expense, and says that should be enough to raise the ire of citizens footing the bill for the City Attorney's actions.
"I don't think that's a correct ruling, but it is a start, and it certainly shows that this kind of conduct by the City Attorney shouldn't be tolerated, because it's costing them," says Egan. "I like that my firm is getting some compensation for this unnecessary lawsuit, but as a taxpayer I'm furious that my money is being spent for bone-headed decision by the City Attorney."
The City Attorney's Office offered no comment on Egan's critiques.