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Attorney Fees

No Fees for Partial Recovery

Posted Aug 14, 2007 6:35 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A federal appeals court has refused to award fees to attorneys who helped clients recover part of the money seized from couriers at an airport who were carrying the cash for about 80 Pakistanis.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the lawyers were not entitled to fees because there were competing claims to the cash and the government was substantially justified in seeking forfeiture, the New York Law Journal reports.

The lawyers, John P. Donohue and David B. Smith, recovered about half of the seized $515,000 for the couriers after a federal judge ruled that anything more would be an excessive fine. They also recovered all of the money for the contributing claimants they represented.

The Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 2000 provides for payment of attorney fees if claimants “substantially prevail” in their claim to recover seized property, but says fees are not allowed when there are competing claims to the same property.

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