Attorneys representing a Charleston County lesbian couple who successfully filed a lawsuit that overturned South Carolina’s same-sex marriage ban last month are now seeking nearly $153,000 from the state
The State newspaper reports the attorneys filed a petition in federal court asking the Attorney General’s Office (the losing side in the case) to pay $152,709 in legal fees. Federal law requires the loser in constitutional rights cases to pay the winning plaintiffs’ fees they incurred during their lawsuit.
Attorney Malissa Burnette said the money would go towards the LGBT rights groups who hired them. Burnette represented Charleston County Councilwoman Colleen Condon and her partner Nichols Bleckley. The pair sued after the Attorney General’s Office blocked a probate judge from granting same-sex marriage licenses back in October.
District Judge Richard Gergel sided with the couple in November, ruling the state constitution’s ban on such marriages unconstitutional under federal standards. An appeals court and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to stop same-sex couples from applying for licenses while Wilson appealed.
The new filing states seven attoneys worked approximately 446 hours at hourly rates ranging from $175 to $400.
An AG’s Office spokesman said the state has until January 7 to formally respond. Attorney General Alan Wilson has already asked the U.S. Supreme Court to put South Carolina’s case on hold while it considers the question of same-sex marriage bans in other states. The Supreme Court has not yet indicated if it will consider such a case, however.
Wilson had tried to avoid the appearance of spending excess taxpayer funds while defending the ban. The AG’s Office used its own employees to litigate the lawsuit and did not hire outside counsel as it often does in high-profile cases.