Monday, June 04, 2007

Nudist cannot collect attorney fees

Tori Anne Whiner Wyner sued the state of Florida in federal court claiming that she had a constitutional right to join a nude peace protest in a public park. She won a preliminary injunction and $25k in attorney fees, but ultimately lost the case.

Today the US Supreme Court ruled unanimously in Sole v Wyner that Florida did not have to pay her the $25k. Justice Ginsburg said what ought to be obvious:
Wyner is not a prevailing party, we conclude, for her initial victory was ephemeral. A plaintiff who "secur[es] a preliminary injunction, then loses on the merits as the case plays out and judgment is entered against [her]," has "[won] a battle but los[t] the war." Watson v. County of Riverside, 300 F. 3d 1092, 1096 (CA9 2002).
Judge Kelly and Comm. Irwin Joseph ordered me to pay $36.5k in attorney fees for my ex-wife. Nearly all of the legal work was in support of a motion to break our 50-50 child custody deal, and give sole legal custody to my ex-wife. All I ever asked for was to maintain our 50-50 custody.

After making a bunch of silly claims, her lawyer did manage to get a temporary change in custody, pending a trial. The trial proved that her claims were bogus, and we eventually reverted to the 50-50 custody we had in the first place.

So why was I ordered to pay that $36.5k in attorney fees? Why would the court want to reward lawyers making bogus claims that waste a lot of court time and ultimately accomplish nothing? I don't know the answer, except to notice that family court judges are very favorable to lawyers, and there is no Supreme Court to correct their excesses.

To justify the attorney fees, my ex-wife submitted an affidavit from Jennifer Gray. I contended that it is filled with lies, and demanded to cross-examiner Gray. In a real court, an affidavit is meaningless unless the opposing party has an opportunity to cross-examine. Comm. Joseph rejected my request, and ordered me to pay anyway, without giving any explanation.

This is the issue that is currently under appeal to a higher California court. I say that I should be able to confront Gray on her lies, and to get her to explain why she thinks she deserves the money she is demanding. Oral argument is at the end of the month, and we should have a decision in about three months. Today's Supreme Court decision gives me a little bit of hope that an appeal court might understand that attorney fees for losing legal work may not be justified.

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