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Attorney asks city for $1.75M

Lawyer for former deputy police chief William Taylor wants payment to cover client's legal fees.

June 19, 2012|By Maria Hsin, maria.hsin@latimes.com

The lead attorney who represented former deputy police chief William Taylor in his successful lawsuit against Burbank is asking a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge to force the city to cover nearly $1.75 million in legal fees.

The attorney, Gregory Smith, successfully argued Taylor's case, which centered on allegations that he faced retaliation and was eventually terminated because he complained about problems in the Police Department, and because he refused to fire minority officers. A jury sided with Taylor, 9-3, in March, awarding him nearly $1.3 million.

Included in Smith's $1.75-million legal bill is about $876,000 in hourly charges for him and his co-counsel, Christopher Brizzolara. Two other attorneys assisted Smith and Brizzolara.

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Smith and Brizzolara charge $600 and hour, according to court documents.

For a public entity, “representation rates are significantly lower,” Smith said, adding that Burbank spent more than $1 million fighting the case.

“They over-litigated the case,” Smith said.

Because of the risk involved, the complexity of the case and the amount of time involved, a so-called “multiplier” was added to the request, pushing the final tab to nearly $1.75 million.

“You take a risk with a public entity, they have unlimited resources to fight you,” Smith said. “You might not see any of the money for three to four years — if you see any.”

The city had two attorneys, sometimes more, as well as a paralegal, working on the case, according to court documents.

Smith said he is not paid unless he wins and could have lost the right to request compensation for $49,000 in other costs related to the case, such as court filing charges.

Burbank's attorneys argue the amount for the other costs should be reduced to about $11,800, saying some of the charges are not allowable under law.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge John Segal, who presided over the trial, will make a decision on the court costs.

Segal recently denied the city's motion for a new trial.

Attorneys are scheduled to argue their positions on Smith's request for attorney fees in Segal's courtroom on July 9.

City Atty. Amy Albano could not be immediately reached for comment.

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