Texas May Be Forced to Pay Nearly $5 Million to Pro-Choice Attorneys
Local firm requests more than $111,000 for HB 2 legal services
By Mary Tuma,
4:13PM, Mon. Oct. 10, 2016
The state may need to shell out more than $4.5 million to lawyers who defended abortion providers in the successful U.S. Supreme Court case that struck down parts of Texas anti-choice law, House Bill 2.
Late Friday, Oct. 7, the nonprofit Center for Reproductive Rights, along with local attorneys Jan Soifer and Patrick O’Connell, filed a request in an Austin U.S. district court to recover fees accumulated by CRR and its pro bono co-counsel during the more than two years of legal proceedings in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. While the bulk of the expenses go back to CRR, more than $111,000 would be directed to Austin law firm O’Connell & Soifer. Plaintiffs have also asked the court to award attorney fees for any future legal work related to the Whole Woman’s case.
“Time and again, politicians in Texas have proven to be as reckless with taxpayer dollars as they are with the health and well-being of the people they serve,” Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement. “Our nonprofit attorneys and pro bono co-counsel dedicated thousands of hours to fighting Texas’ blatantly unconstitutional law.”
The case challenged two major parts of HB 2: a rule that forced doctors to obtain admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the abortion clinic and a requirement that made clinics transform into ambulatory surgical centers. Non-partisan medical organizations denounced the rules as medically unnecessary and potentially unsafe. In a major victory for reproductive rights, the U.S. Supreme Court on June 27 ruled the provisions unconstitutional and an undue burden on women seeking abortion access. However, abortion clinics and the health safety net in Texas have been severely impacted by the entirety of the law. Since parts of the law have taken effect, half of the state’s abortion clinics have shut down. Reopening clinics won’t happen overnight, providers have stressed.
Texas has until Nov. 4 to respond, at which point CRR will follow-up with its own response. U.S. Judge Lee Yeakel will ultimately decide if Texas must pay up. Yeakel previously ruled portions of HB 2 unconstitutional in 2013 and in 2014.