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Blagojevich Lawyers Agree to $110-an-Hour Fee LimitOusted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's lawyers reluctantly agreed to be paid far below the rate some usually charge in return for being allowed to tap his $2.3 million campaign fund. In court papers filed Friday, the lawyers accepted the rate of $110 an hour, the legal limit court-appointed lawyers can charge in federal cases. Only the head of Blagojevich's defense team has committed himself in court to represent the now-impeached governor. Others are said to be waiting to see if they would be paid.
2009-05-11 12:00:00 AM
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.
Also in court papers filed Friday, defense attorneys pleaded with Zagel not to be overly strict in limiting the number of helpers they can hire.
They say they are confronted with 1 to 3 million documents and 400 hours of conversations secretly wiretapped by the FBI.
They said one attorney can read about 58,240 pages a year.
"That three million divided by 58,240 pages equals 51 years for one attorney just to read the documents," the filing said. "With 10 attorneys just reading the materials it would take 5.1 years."
They said it would take 50 days for one attorney listening eight hours a day to listen to all the tapes.
"We request this honorable court to appoint a sufficient number of attorneys so that the massive amount of discovery can be read and the tapes can be digested within a reasonable amount of time and defendant Rod Blagojevich be afforded effective assistance of counsel," they said.
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