Judge wrong to give NY a break on attorney fees

Judge wrong to give NY a break on attorney fees
AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File

Hiring an attorney isn’t cheap. There’s a reason that people really should try to avoid getting the courts involved in most things if there’s any way at all to do so.


Sometimes, though, you don’t have a choice.

That’s the case when you take any level of government to court over unconstitutional gun control laws. The upside is that in many cases, you’re entitled to having the losing side pay your attorney fees.

Yet in the aftermath of Bruen, the court has ruled that the fees presented were too high.

Even so, New York has to pay the attorneys.

A New York judge ordered the state to pay nearly half a million dollars in legal feels to the National Rifle Association (NRA) after the gun rights group won a major case at the Supreme Court.

In a case decided last summer, the Supreme Court ruled that a New York public carry licensing law was unconstitutional and that the ability to carry a pistol in public was a constitutional right guaranteed by the Second Amendment.

The NRA was a party in that case, New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, and last week a New York judge ordered the state to pay $447,700.82 in legal fees.

“The NRA regards the $447K award in the NYSRPA V. Bruen case as a pivotal victory, a symbol that justice is definitively on our side,” Michael Jean, NRA’s director of the Office of Litigation Counsel, told Fox News Digital in a statement.

Jean noted, however, that the payout “only scratches the surface” and covers “merely a third” of the group’s legal expenses. Jean thanked the generosity of “devoted NRA members” that helped to cover the brunt of the legal fees for the case, noting that “New York refuses to fully compensate.”


This is a problem, in my humble opinion.

See, the ability to recoup attorney fees if one wins likely encourages people who are quite sure they’re in the right to challenge the government regarding the restriction of their rights. Not just gun rights, either, mind you, but any right.

As I already noted, hiring an attorney is expensive in and of itself. Removing the ability to get full attorney fees may well create a chilling effect on groups that don’t have the deep pockets the NRA historically has.

Further, I’m not sure where the judge gets off deciding what a given attorney’s time is worth, anyway.

After all, we know that various attorneys have a very high hourly rate. They get it because they’re good at what they do and often command that rate because they’re so in demand because they’re that good. If they can command those rates when people pay out of pocket, why does a judge get to decide that the government shouldn’t be on the hook for the full amount?

I can’t help but feel like all of this is designed specifically to reduce challenges to the government’s infringements on our various civil liberties, particularly by individuals who may not be working with a rights group.

And that’s never how this should work.

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