Federal District Court Judge Consuelo B. Marshall Grants Plaintiffs' Counsel
Motion for Attorneys' Fees and awards $881,675.75 in fees pursuant to the
Equal Access to Justice Act after finding Defendant United States of America
acted in "bad faith"
LOS ANGELES, May 27, 2014
LOS ANGELES, May 27, 2014 /PRNewswire/ --The Honorable Consuelo B. Marshall,
(C.D. Cal) has awarded Plaintiff's Counsel from Schonbrun DeSimone Seplow
Harris & Hoffman (SDSHH) a landmark fee award of $881,675.75, finding the
Defendant United States of America acted in "bad faith" throughout the course
of litigation since 2000. Asylum Officer Thomas Powell was caught red-handed
in a sting operation involving Plaintiff Jie Hao, one of two asylum victims
who were subjected to demands for sexual favors and bribes for money in
exchange for granting their applications. Plaintiffs sued the Government for
violations of their civil rights and emotional distress endured since the
incident occurred in 2000.
Plaintiffs' Counsel filed a motion for attorney's fees in September 2013 under
the Equal Access to Justice Act ("EAJA") after prevailing at trial with a $1.2
million dollar verdict
The award is significant because of the explicit finding of continuous and
pervasive bad faith of the Defendant United States of America.
The Court found that from June 8, 2000 forward—when Plaintiff Hao completed
the sting operation with Department of Justice officials—Defendant's bad faith
has affected all of the "various phases of litigation," including Defendant's
pre-litigation conduct and conduct during the litigation.
In particular, Defendant maintained throughout this litigation that by
participating in the sting operation, Plaintiff Hao consented to any
misconduct carried out by Powell. The Court finds that Defendant's failure to
come to her aid after Powell touched Plaintiffs' buttocks was bad faith.
Despite possessing this unambiguous evidence of Powell's misconduct, Defendant
delayed the adjudication of Plaintiff Hao's asylum application for seven years
until the criminal case against Powell was resolved, preventing her from
reuniting with her family, which was also found to be in bad faith because
Defendant could have adjudicated the asylum case while waiting for her to
testify at Powell's criminal trial.
The court's fee motion award flatly rejected Defendant's argument stating,
"Plaintiffs were required to respond to Defendants' meritless and offensive
consent arguments throughout this case. Plaintiff Hao agreed to assist in the
sting operation so that the Government might have a stronger case against
Powell. However, Plaintiff Hao did not consent to be subjected to the sexual
touching, hugging, kissing, anxiety, and depression that ultimately resulted."
Additionally, Defendant continued to maintain throughout the litigation that
Plaintiffs' claims are barred by the intentional tort exception under the
FTCA—which Defendant raised even after the Ninth Circuit held otherwise in a
Published Decision —constitutes bad faith.
Judge Marshall found "Defendant's bad faith has affected all portions or
phases of the litigation since June 8, 2000, the date that the Plaintiff Hao
and Department of Justice officials conducted the sting operation involving
Powell." She awarded Plaintiffs' counsel V. James DeSimone, Michael Seplow,
Menaka Fernando, Douglas Ingraham and Do Kim market rates, rather than the
Equal Access to Justice Act rate of $125 per hour, based on their specialized
knowledge in litigating this case for fourteen years. Plaintiffs' counsel,
Kunti Dudakia, an Associate who joined SDSHH in August 2013, crafted the bad
faith argument in the fee motion and argued the motion before Judge Marshall
emphasizing the bad faith conduct began in the pre-litigation phase of this
case where Defendant's maintained Plaintiff Hao consented to Powell's
misconduct and emphasized the offensive nature of this argument and the need
for justice and closure after fourteen years of litigation.
V. James DeSimone, lead trial and appellate counsel, stated, "Our clients have
waited fifteen long years for justice. They came to this country with great
hope and aided our country by putting a predator behind bars. It is time for
the United States to honor their service and compensate them fairly by paying
this Judgment and Attorney Fee Award."
For more information contact:
Kunti Dudakia, Esq.
Schonbrun DeSimone Seplow Harris & Hoffman LLP
723 Ocean Front Walk
Venice, CA 90291
T: (310) 396-0731
SOURCE Schonbrun Desimone Seplow Harris & Hoffman, LLP
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