The Justice Department brief, filed by District of Columbia U.S. Attorney Earl J. Silbert, says that Attorney General Griffin B. Bell endorses the panel's statement of intent "to resist the imposition on the public sector of the highest sector of the highest standards of legal remuneration adopted in the private sector-standards which are out of line with the ethic of public service with which attorneys are encouraged to engage in public interest litigation."
Wilmer, Culter and Pickering, it should be noted, hardly needs the money. The firm represents some of the wealthiest corporations in American. No meals will be missed if the fee is lowered.
The "resonableness" of the firm's fee in this case isn't the issue so much any more. What now is at issue is a formula proposed by three men, not especially noted for extensive experience with law firms in private practice. The formula adopted without benefit of written briefs or oral arguments of the point, could have wide-ranging consequences to an important area of the law. Whether or not the panel considered-or even was aware of-the repercussions that its formula could have wide-ranging consequences to an important area of the law.
The standard that the panel suggests appears on the face of it to be high-minded. No one will get an argument here that some lawyers-even a lot of lawyers-charge too much money for what they do. The fact is that they are able to get what they demand in the marketplace.
It's no secret that private lawyers who subsist by getting U.S. funds under the Criminal Justice Act for representing indigent Criminial defendants are not the cream of the legal profession. The best criminal lawyers, for the most part, wind up representing clients who can afford to pay-and pay well-for legal representation.
Under the Criminal Justice Act, defense lawyers get paid whether they win or lose. The starting point for discussion in Title VII cases is that the government does not have to pay a nickel in legal fees to a defendant unless the government loses, which is to say when a court finds that the government has behaved badly.
Why, in those circumstances, should the government have the additional advantage of possibly denying a plaintiff the best lawyers around by seeing to it that the lawyer may have to work for less than his or her normal fee? Why should victims of discrimination have to depend upon legal charity in order to get what the law says is their right?