Tort Law

Judge: Gov't Lied, Must Pay Attorney Fees

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In more than 30 years of practice, New Hampshire lawyer Steve Gordon says he’s never before tried to get a judge to award attorney fees against the federal government due to bad faith. But that’s the approach that he’s taken—successfully—in a tort case over a murdered government informant whose identity was found to have been leaked by the FBI.

Because Department of Justice lawyers lied until the case was on the verge of trial about not having evidence that the FBI agent John Connolly leaked the identity of informant John McIntyre to mobsters, the government must now pay the $640,000 that Gordon and fellow attorney Bill Christie racked up in legal fees over the seven years it took to win a $3.1 judgment for his estate, a federal judge in Boston ruled last week, according to the Concord Monitor and the Associated Press.

“The question currently before this court is whether the United States acted in bad faith when it repeatedly lied,” wrote U.S. Magistrate Judge Joyce London Alexander in her opinion. “This court finds that it did.”

However, the government may appeal the decision—as it has done with a Sept. 5, 2006 decision (PDF) granting the $3.1 million judgment—and Gordon says they’ve so far received nothing for their work. “To date, we’ve received the accolades but no money,” Gordon tells the newspaper. (The decision in the Federal Tort Claims Act case was provided by a Web site for his firm, Shaheen & Gordon.)

More details about the case are offered in a National Law Journal article co-authored by Christie that was published earlier this year, and a Boston Globe (reg. req.) article written about the fee petition before the judge made her award.

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