Covington & Burling says the D.C. government owes the firm $13,405.59 in costs for the successful lawsuit it brought in federal court for inmates at Lorton's maximum-security facility. The D.C. government says the law exempts them from paying any costs because each inmate won less than $10,000 in damages.

Covington, which represented the inmates for free, wants the money to cover $5,690.89 for printing and copying, $2,127.62 for witness fees, and the rest for clerical overtime, travel, postage, telephone calls, word processing, computerized research and $1,143.38 in "miscellaneous expenses."

Judge June L. Green hasn't decided yet how resolve the argument. Meanwhile, the jury in the case said the inmates are owed $1 per day for every day they spent in maximum over a four-year period. That could cost the city another $200,000.

On top of that, Covington wants Green to decide how much the firm's lawyers should be paid for the 36 hours they spent preparing a successful contempt motion against the city in connection with the case. The city wants to know why it looks so long . . .

U.S. Magistrate Lawrence S. Margolis has taken over a chairman of the American Bar Association's Judicial Administration Division, the nation's largest association of judges. Margolis, 45, who has a degree in mechanical and aeronautical engineering as well as law, has been a magistrate since 1971.