A federal judge has struck down an attorney’s request for legal fees in a $9.5 million class action settlement resolving antitrust claims against the publisher of the Barbri bar exam review course.

U.S. District Judge Manuel Real in Los Angeles rejected George Richard Baker’s argument that he is entitled to $578,750 in fees for his role in raising red flags about the coupons in a settlement with West Publishing Corp. and Kaplan Inc. Baker represents six objectors to the deal.

On Sept. 20, Real approved a new deal – this time, an all-cash settlement – and reduced plaintiffs counsel’s fee request from $1.9 million to $585,000, most of it going to class counsel Harris & Ruble.

But the judge awarded no fees to Baker, crediting the changes in the settlement to his own “independent analysis,” rather than the work of objectors’ counsel, according to court documents.

In an Oct. 18 motion, Baker called on Real to amend or vacate his ruling in light of a parallel case pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit brought by objectors to a $49 million Barbri settlement. That appeal, Baker wrote, “raises issues indistinguishable” from his case, Stephen Stetson v. West Publishing Corp.

“Basically, it’s the same argument in our view: What the judge is saying is he would have already ruled that way anyway and, therefore, we don’t get a fee,” Baker told The National Law Journal. “I don’t think that’s the proper standard, and it would have a horrible chilling effect on meritorious objections.”

Both cases alleged that about 500,000 law school students paid too much for Barbri review materials after West and Kaplan conspired to establish a monopoly in violation of the Sherman Act. The larger settlement involves those who paid for the Barbri course during the nine years after Aug. 1, 1997, while the smaller one is for people who purchased the materials from Aug. 1, 2006, through March 21, 2011.

On Monday, Real rejected Baker’s motion. He also granted $4,000 in incentive awards to each of the five representative plaintiffs.

Baker, a solo practitioner with offices in San Francisco and Birmingham, Ala., said he planned to appeal the decision to the Ninth Circuit, possibly consolidating his arguments with the Barbri case now before the Ninth Circuit, Ryan Rodriguez v. West Publishing Corp.

In that case, lawyers at Pasadena’s Kendrick & Nutley, who represent five objectors, have sought to reverse Real’s January 14 ruling awarding them $236,000 in fees. They had requested $1.8 million after dismantling the original deal by flagging conflicts over the incentive awards and, later, successfully reducing fees to McGuireWoods, class counsel in the case.

In an Aug. 19 appeal, Kendrick & Nutley argued that Real, who cited his own independent analysis in approving changes to the settlement, failed to consider the firm’s work, which saved $8.9 million for the class. Briefing on that appeal was completed on Nov. 21, but the Ninth Circuit hasn’t scheduled oral argument.

Contact Amanda Bronstad at abronstad@alm.com.

A federal judge has struck down an attorney’s request for legal fees in a $9.5 million class action settlement resolving antitrust claims against the publisher of the Barbri bar exam review course.

U.S. District Judge Manuel Real in Los Angeles rejected George Richard Baker’s argument that he is entitled to $578,750 in fees for his role in raising red flags about the coupons in a settlement with West Publishing Corp. and Kaplan Inc. Baker represents six objectors to the deal.

On Sept. 20, Real approved a new deal – this time, an all-cash settlement – and reduced plaintiffs counsel’s fee request from $1.9 million to $585,000, most of it going to class counsel Harris & Ruble.

But the judge awarded no fees to Baker, crediting the changes in the settlement to his own “independent analysis,” rather than the work of objectors’ counsel, according to court documents.

In an Oct. 18 motion, Baker called on Real to amend or vacate his ruling in light of a parallel case pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit brought by objectors to a $49 million Barbri settlement. That appeal, Baker wrote, “raises issues indistinguishable” from his case, Stephen Stetson v. West Publishing Corp.

“Basically, it’s the same argument in our view: What the judge is saying is he would have already ruled that way anyway and, therefore, we don’t get a fee,” Baker told The National Law Journal. “I don’t think that’s the proper standard, and it would have a horrible chilling effect on meritorious objections.”

Both cases alleged that about 500,000 law school students paid too much for Barbri review materials after West and Kaplan conspired to establish a monopoly in violation of the Sherman Act. The larger settlement involves those who paid for the Barbri course during the nine years after Aug. 1, 1997, while the smaller one is for people who purchased the materials from Aug. 1, 2006, through March 21, 2011.

On Monday, Real rejected Baker’s motion. He also granted $4,000 in incentive awards to each of the five representative plaintiffs.

Baker, a solo practitioner with offices in San Francisco and Birmingham, Ala., said he planned to appeal the decision to the Ninth Circuit, possibly consolidating his arguments with the Barbri case now before the Ninth Circuit, Ryan Rodriguez v. West Publishing Corp.

In that case, lawyers at Pasadena’s Kendrick & Nutley, who represent five objectors, have sought to reverse Real’s January 14 ruling awarding them $236,000 in fees. They had requested $1.8 million after dismantling the original deal by flagging conflicts over the incentive awards and, later, successfully reducing fees to McGuireWoods, class counsel in the case.

In an Aug. 19 appeal, Kendrick & Nutley argued that Real, who cited his own independent analysis in approving changes to the settlement, failed to consider the firm’s work, which saved $8.9 million for the class. Briefing on that appeal was completed on Nov. 21, but the Ninth Circuit hasn’t scheduled oral argument.

Contact Amanda Bronstad at abronstad@alm.com.