Texas to Pick Up $605,000 Tab in Same-Sex Marriage Case

Cleopatra de Leon, Nicole Dimetman, Vic Holmes and Mark Phariss
From left: Texas same-sex marriage case plaintiffs Cleopatra DeLeon, Nicole Dimetman, Vic Holmes and Mark Phariss outside San Antonio’s federal courthouse in February. The state has been ordered to pay $605,000 in court and attorneys’ fees for the couples.  Patrick Michels

Texas has been ordered to pay more than $605,000 to attorneys for the plaintiffs in a same-sex marriage lawsuit, following a federal judge’s ruling Monday.

U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia awarded $585,470 in fees and $20,203 in costs to attorneys from Akin Gump Straus Hauer & Feld, the San Antonio firm that represented two same-sex couples in DeLeon v. Perry.

Following the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, Garcia ruled in favor of the plaintiffs — couples Cleopatra DeLeon and Nicole Dimetman, and Mark Phariss and Vic Holmes — on July 7. Under federal law, prevailing parties in civil rights cases are typically eligible for fees and costs.

“It was important, at the end of the day, once we prevailed, to require the state to pay something for having made our clients go through this process,” Akin Gump’s Neel Lane told the Observer. “You really need to discourage, where you can, violations of constitutional rights, and the way you do that is you hold the state accountable.”

Representatives from the Texas Attorney General’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The plaintiffs’ attorneys had requested more than $735,000 in fees and costs, but the state argued Garcia should award only $383,000.

In his 10-page order, Garcia lowered hourly rates for attorneys who worked on the case, but rejected the state’s argument that the number of hours billed was excessive. Garcia also praised the plaintiffs’ attorneys for “excellent and commendable skill in prosecuting the case.”

Akin Gump originally filed the lawsuit in October 2013. In February 2014, Garcia struck down Texas’ same-sex marriage bans as unconstitutional, but stayed his own decision pending an appeal. The AG’s office then appealed to the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which heard oral arguments in January but didn’t rule until after Obergefell.

Do you think free access to journalism like this is important? The Texas Observer is known for its fiercely independent, uncompromising work—which we are pleased to provide to the public at no charge in this space. That means we rely on the generosity of our readers who believe that this work is important. You can chip in for as little as 99 cents a month. If you believe in this mission, we need your help.

John Wright is a freelance journalist based in Austin. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

You May Also Like: