Florida taxpayers will not have to pay for what could amount to millions in attorneys fees for the coalition of voters groups who successfully challenged the Legislature's drawing of congressional districts, a Leon County court judge ruled Thursday.
But Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis gave them a consolution prize: the Legislature, via taxpayers, would pay most of their costs. That's on top of the more than $7 million already spent on the Legislature's lawyers.
Lewis also gave the plaintiffs the comfort of knowing they were the victors.
"I find you to be the prevailing party,'' he told the plaintiffs at the conclusion of the 90-minute hearing in Tallahassee Thursday.
The statement was necessary because, as with everything in this bitterly-fought, two-year case, even the question of who won was in dispute. Employing every ounce of brass-plated legalese, the attorneys pounced on the question of who really won the lawsuit.
The Legislature's lawyers argued that because the court threw out only two of the 10 disputed districts that they had succeeded in defeating the voters groups and the plaintiffs should have to pay the Legislature's fees for going to court to battle over fees.
Arguing the Legislature acted in bad faith "when all we did was aggressively defend the case...is in itself in bad faith,'' said Raoul Cantero, lawyer for the Florida Senate.