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May 10, 2009

Blagojevich gets a bargain rate for his defense team

This interesting article, headlined "Blagojevich Lawyers Agree to $110-an-Hour Fee Limit ," explains how former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is getting some top-shelf legal help at cut-rate prices:

Ousted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's lawyers have reluctantly agreed to be paid far below the rate some of them usually charge in return for being allowed to tap his $2.3 million campaign fund.

In court papers filed Friday morning, the lawyers accepted the rate of $110 an hour, which is the legal limit court-appointed lawyers can charge in federal cases. Big-name criminal defense attorneys often work on a flat-fee basis but when computed as hourly rates, their charges can range up to $700 and beyond.

The debate over fees between prosecutors and the Blagojevich defense team headed by attorney Sheldon Sorosky has been dominating developments in the case for weeks.

Blagojevich is charged with scheming to sell or trade President Obama's U.S. Senate seat and use the muscle of the Illinois governor's office to squeeze companies with state business for campaign contributions. He has pleaded not guilty.

So far Sorosky is the only attorney to commit himself in court to represent the now-impeached governor. Others have been said to be waiting to see if they would be paid.  Attorneys say the campaign fund is the only ready source of money to pay fees.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Reid Schar and other prosecutors have argued that it might not even be proper to tap the fund which was meant to bankroll political campaigns -- not Blagojevich's defense against federal corruption charges.  Last week, however, they offered to allow defense attorneys to pay themselves out of the fund as long as they confined themselves to the $110-an-hour rate.  They said that if the attorneys billed the fund at a higher rate, it would soon be exhausted and taxpayers would have to provide the fees for the rest of the case.

U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel, who is presiding over the case, said the defense attorneys would be allowed to take that deal or ask for a hearing on why they should be allowed to bill at a higher rate. They took the $110-an-hour rate.

May 10, 2009 at 12:29 PM | Permalink


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"They said it would take 50 days for one attorney listening eight hours a day to listen to all the tapes. "

Don't law firms have grunts to do this?

Posted by: . | May 10, 2009 1:21:25 PM

Temps can only do initial screening. Temps, because, they have different biology and are practically of a different species can't preform the substantive analysis that people that went to real law schools can on the same tapes.

(And, temps are often billed out at over $110/hour.)

Posted by: S.cotus | May 10, 2009 1:45:22 PM

We'll see who enters an appearance for Blago at those rates. I will be pretty surprised if it's "top shelf" legal help. The case will consume most, if not all, of a lawyer's time for at least the next two years. At a rate of $110/per, the "top shelf" criminal lawyers in Chicago won't be sniffing.

The firms won't take him for that (or any other rate) either.

He's going to have to string together a team of attorneys who have criminal experience, but aren't established stars.

Posted by: Jimmy | May 10, 2009 5:07:20 PM

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