A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge this week issued a tentative ruling that would force Burbank to pay roughly $929,500 to cover the legal fees incurred by a former deputy police chief who won a nearly $1.3-million judgment for claims that he faced retaliation for trying to address problems in the department.
The amount for the legal fees was still far less than the $1.75 million requested by attorneys who represented former Deputy Police Chief William Taylor in his successful lawsuit.
In issuing his tentative ruling on Monday, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge John Segal reduced Burbank's liability by lowering the hourly rate submitted by Taylor's attorneys — Christopher Brizzolara and Gregory Smith. They had sought to charge $600 an hour, including a “multiplier” triggered by the complexity and risk involved in litigating the case.
But after lowering that multiplier and reducing Brizzolara's rate to $525, the cost penciled out to $929,459 — $20,925 of that for expert witness fees.
Linda Savitt, one of the attorneys for Burbank, argued that $400 an hour is her highest rate while questioning Brizzolara's role during the course of the trial.
“He did nothing in the trial,” Savitt argued, adding that the opposition's request amounted to an unreasonable $1,200 an hour.
Brizzolara has stated that his participation during the trial was limited because of medical issues.
Smith and Brizzolara successfully argued before a jury that Taylor was demoted and then fired by the city in retaliation for complaining about problems in the Police Department, and for his refusal to fire minority officers.
The jury awarded Taylor nearly $1.3 million in March in a 9-3 vote.
Court documents show Segal found Smith's $600 hourly rate to be “reasonable” as Taylor's lead counsel.
Brizzolara, who was Smith's co-counsel during the Taylor trial, argued in court Monday that they are contacted daily by firefighters and police officers seeking legal assistance.
“Not many attorneys have the success we do,” Brizzolara added.
City Atty. Amy Albando said about $8,939 in other legal costs had already been awarded. If the tentative ruling is finalized, this would bring the grand total to $938,439.
It was unclear when Segal would issue his decision.