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Judge: State must reply to lawyers seeking fees of $2.8M in DCS case

October 7, 2016

A judge has ordered the state to reply to the petition of four lawyers for fees of $2.8 million for winning a $31 million judgment for a northern Indiana family victimized by the state Department of Child Services.
 
The four represented the family of Lynnette and Roman Finnegan, who sued DCS and others in 2008 for the wrongful removal of their children from their home and the for agency’s falsified substantiations against them in Pulaski County in late 2005. The nearly 8-year-old case culminated last year in the jury’s verdict, and Judge Rudy Lozano of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana last month denied the state’s motion to reduce the judgment.

Lozano on Wednesday issued an order giving the state 14 days from his Sept. 30 ruling upholding the jury’s award to respond to counsel’s petition for fees that was filed last November.

Lawyers who won the constitutional-rights case are entitled to payment of their fees under federal law, and the petition bills for more than 8,698 hours on the case. Indianapolis attorney and lead counsel Ron Waicukauski petitioned for fees and expenses of more than $1.17 million. Seattle attorney Heather Kirkwood, who works with the Innocence Network, petitioned for just over $1 million. Indianapolis civil rights attorney Richard Waples and local counsel Kevin Tankersley of Winamac petitioned for roughly $380,000 and $250,000 in fees and expenses, respectively.

The petition claims the fees “are reasonable given that the case has been vigorously litigated for approximately seven years, required extensive discovery and motion practice, and culminated in a three-week jury trial. The total amount of fees is also reasonable in light of the ultimate judgment obtained against the defendants.”

The state has not yet indicated whether it will appeal the jury’s verdict.  
 

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