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Thursday, April 12, 2012 10:33 pm

PAY UP

Attorneys for Bruce Rushton, Illinois Times staff writer, are asking for more than $22,000 in fees for successfully suing the city of Springfield for violating the state Open Meetings Act.

Rushton sued in January after a committee composed of city and union officials met behind closed doors to reverse an earlier decision, also made in secret by the same committee, to deny health insurance to civil-union partners of city employees. The fat lady hasn’t sung, but close enough: Rushton won an injunction, and attorneys for the city last week told Sangamon County Associate Judge Brian Otwell that the city will reorganize the committee so that it satisfies the requirements of state law.

Don Craven, Rushton’s lawyer, on Monday filed a demand for $22,231 for himself and attorney Esther Seitz, who assisted with the case. It is not clear who would pay, given that three unions intervened in the case on the city’s side and could help ease the city’s burden.

While the Open Meetings Act does not explicitly require judges to award fees, failure to do so could be a reversible error, Craven wrote in his petition for fees. In requesting fees, Craven used a standard contained in the state Freedom of Information Act, which says that plaintiffs are entitled to fees if they substantially prevail in lawsuits against public bodies.

“Plaintiff exceeded the ‘substantially prevail’ standard,” Craven wrote. “He prevailed totally.”
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