Thursday, April 12, 2007
Posted by Alan Childress
In an unusual move, a federal district judge in a class action settlement against Shell (for too much sulfur in the gas) divided up the plaintiffs' class attorney fees (aggregated at $6.8 million for 79 lawyers) -- then sealed the order from everyone including most of the attorneys involved. They were told their own fee award but ordered -- subject to sanctions -- not to reveal their share to the others. The Times-Picayune story (via Nola.com) is Judge keeps attorney pay secret, then seals reason for ruling, and it is linked and discussed on an interesting blog post by Brian Privor called Sunbock for Lawyers. Brian writes, "Apparently the lawyers can't be trusted not to sue each other if they find out someone got a bigger slice of pie than they did."
Loyola ethics professor Dane Ciolino brought a motion to open the distribution to the public, but it was denied. The newspaper story quotes him: "Keeping the fee information closed to public view, Ciolino said, 'suggests to the public at large that lawyers in high-profile, class action cases have something to hide.' " Ciolino intends to appeal Judge Ivan Lemelle's ruling to the Fifth Circuit.