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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Settlement in Hood County, TX

A couple initially denied a marriage license by the County Clerk of Hood County, TX, has settled the lawsuit, recovering more than $ 44,000 in attorney's fees.

On one hand, as I argued here, the availability of attorney's fees will make "resistance" to Obergefell quite expensive and, eventually, unpopular. On the other hand, how did the plaintiffs in this case rack up that much in attorney's fees? The office issued them the license a few hours after the complaint was filed, so the only expenses to that point should have been drafting and filing the complaint, which could not possibly cost that much. And settling seems an odd move by the county here, since the case should have been moot once the license issued.

Posted by Howard Wasserman on August 18, 2015 at 09:52 AM in Civil Procedure, Constitutional thoughts, Howard Wasserman | Permalink


Actually, I just found the complaint: http://www.lrl.state.tx.us/scanned/archive/2015/28018.pdf

There is no express claim or prayer for damages, although there is a catch-all "such other relief." Maybe that would have been enough to stave off a mootness. Of course that point is, itself, now moot.

Posted by: Howard Wasserman | Aug 20, 2015 9:57:49 AM

My understanding had been that the couple had only sought an injunction requiring a license (for themselves and everyone else). If there was a damages claim (I have not been able to find the complaint), then that resolves the mootness problem.

Posted by: Howard Wasserman | Aug 20, 2015 9:55:10 AM

I think it's worth remembering that the settlement is an agreement between the parties. Whether the court would have awarded the plaintiff ~$44k in legal fees is an inquiry that is only indirectly related to whether it made sense for the defendants to agree to pay that amount.

I don't agree that the plaintiffs' claims were moot; as I understand it, they had a section 1983 claim for damages based on the initial refusal to issue the license and the period before filing when the license was still being denied.

Posted by: Sykes Five | Aug 20, 2015 9:40:13 AM

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