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$232,700 in Attorney Fees Awarded In Colorado Censorship Settlement

The United States District Court for the District of Colorado on April 26, 2005, awarded $232,700 in fees and costs after a Settlement Agreement was reached over the rejection of numerous magazines and books by the Colorado Department of Corrections (CDOC).

Several publishers and prisoners sued the CDOC when magazines and books were rejected without legitimate substantive basis. [See: PLN, Sep. 2000, p. 25.] After nearly five years of discovery and wrangling, a Settlement Agreement was reached whereby most of the publications were allowed in and new rules were formulated governing censorship and appeal procedures. CDOC prisoners were, however, blind sided by the Agreements allowance for rejection of all sexually explicit material which the CDOC has extended to material in both pictorial and written form. [See: PLN, May 2005, p. 28.] The plaintiffs moved for $712,695 in attorney fees and $51,259 in costs ($763,954 total).

With the plaintiffs stipulated as prevailing parties under the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) and entitled to fees under 42 U.S.C. § 1988, the Court reduced the fee request to an award of $185,390 for attorney work by Wheeler Trigg Kennedy LLC, based on PLRA mandated 150 percent of the maximum hourly rate paid federal public defenders (hence $169.50 per hour). The firm also received $21,810 in costs awarded. An additional $25,500 was awarded to Mark Silverstein, the Colorado ACLUs Legal Services Director. See: New Times, Inc. v. Ortiz, USDC D.Colo. Case No. OO-F-612.

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Related legal case

New Times, Inc. v. Ortiz