Washington County Billed $2.5M in Legal Fees in Wrongful Conviction Case

A lawyer wants a federal judge to order Clark County to pay $2.5 million in legal fees on top of the $9 million a jury awarded to a former Vancouver, Wash., police officer who was wrongfully convicted.

In a motion filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Tacoma, attorney Kathleen Zellner requested hourly rates of $300 to $575 an hour for her team with a 1.5 multiplier for taking a difficult case, The Columbian reported Wednesday.

Courts have allowed the multiplier for factors including the undesirability of the case, the inability of attorneys to take on additional clients in light of the demands of the case and the potential for receiving no payment, Zellner argued.

Clark County has said it will not pay the jury award. The county did not have insurance in the 1980s when Clyde Ray Spencer was wrongfully convicted of sexually abusing his children.

Spencer, 66, spent nearly 20 years in prison before charges were vacated on appeal and dismissed in 2010. He won his false imprisonment lawsuit Feb. 3 in Tacoma.

County commissioners voted to not indemnify Det. Sharon Krause and Sgt. Mike Davidson in the case. The former sheriff’s office employees were found liable by the jury, which determined Spencer’s constitutional rights to due process were violated.

The county spent nearly $500,000 defending Krause and Davidson, but commissioners argued they should not have to pay the verdict because they believe Krause, who was found to have fabricated police reports, was acting outside the scope of her employment.

Zellner will ask Judge Benjamin Settle to order the county to pay the judgment, Zellner said Monday in a statement from her Chicago office. Her motion Tuesday was limited to legal fees.

Her team “had to prove the case circumstantially with evidence of concealed reports, an improper relationship, misquotations and misrepresentations, false statements, forged documents, and analysis and evaluation of over 800 quotations appearing in police reports. In short, this case involved truly novel and unique legal and factual matters,” she wrote.