I recently wrote about the Texas Attorney General who has filed several high-profile frivolous lawsuits. See my post here. He spent close to $4 million on his political lawsuits. If that was not enough, the Attorney General also lost big in a big lawsuit. The winning party in a civil rights lawsuit has the right to seek attorney’s fees. Most civil rights lawsuits include an attorney’s fees provision. Greg Abbott did not file the re-districting lawsuit arising from the 2011 legislature. But, he was in charge of defending against that huge lawsuit. Now, the winners, several civil rights groups and some politicians whose districts were gerrymandered, are said to be requesting some $6 million in attorney’s fees. See San Antonio Express News report.
According to the Express News, the AG is attacking the fee requests based on the usual grounds, some fees are repetitive, some fees are connected to losing arguments. But, in the end, most plaintiffs get 80-90% of what they seek. The news report also suggests the AG’s office is making yet another frivolous claim: that the victory in a separate lawsuit, one involving a redistricting issue in Alabama represents a win by the AG’s office. If true, then the AG could supposedly argue that claims related to the Alabama lawsuit failed and the Texas civil rights groups should not receive an award for any work on that lawsuit. The AG’s office is referring to a separate lawsuit that was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, known as Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder. In this separate lawsuit, the U.S. Supreme Court did strike down the pre-clearance requirement of the Voting Rights Act.
But, this argument makes no sense. That decision in Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, No. 12-96 (2013) is called "Shelby County, Alabama" because it started with a lawsuit against Shelby County, Alabama. See Supreme Court opinion. The lawsuit was not against Texas and it was not filed by the Texas civil rights groups. No plaintiff from Texas can ask that the Texas Attorney General pay attorney fees arising from the Alabama case.
But, I suspect those arguments are for the public. In reviewing the recent pleadings in the Texas lawsuit, there is no fee request on file yet. So, there is no AG response, yet. The only recent pleading is a judgment by the court finding that the plaintiff prevailed on three key issues. Such a ruling is necessary before the plaintiffs can submit an attorney fee request. There must first be some finding that they did prevail before they can request an award of attorney fees.
So, the cost of Mr. Abbott’s weak lawsuits and weak defenses will rise to some $10 million. But, his chances for the governorship have risen in proportion to his costly lawsuits and defenses.