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Persuading the California Supreme Court to nullify about 4,000 same-sex marriages took a lot of hard work, attorneys for a conservative legal group say — and now they want to get paid. The Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Alliance Defense Fund filed a motion with the court on Friday seeking nearly $228,000 in attorneys fees for more than 765 hours of work by eight lawyers and one paralegal. The group, which also requested about $1,300 in costs, petitioned under the state’s private attorney general statute, which allows courts to award fees to private parties that have won the enforcement of an important right affecting the public interest. “Had [San Francisco Clerk Nancy] Alfaro been permitted to continue defying the law, the rights of all citizens would have been placed in jeopardy because public officials would be encouraged to refuse to enforce laws with which they disagree,” ADF lawyer Robert Tyler wrote. “Because the issue was a matter of statewide rather than local concern,” he continued, “ensuring that the marriage laws were uniformly enforced benefited citizens statewide.” San Francisco Deputy City Attorney Therese Stewart responded by saying that ADF did nothing to merit attorneys fees. “We don’t think they added any value to the debate,” she said, “and also what they were seeking was not a final resolution of the main issue — the constitutionality of excluding gay and lesbian couples from marriage.” Stewart called ADF’s participation in the case “superfluous.” The group’s lawyers had been told that Attorney General Bill Lockyer was going to step in, she said, but ADF jumped the gun and filed its writ of mandate two days ahead of him. “They wanted to have their name in the papers.” ADF filed its complaint with the high court Feb. 25, requesting an immediate stay on behalf of three individual plaintiffs — Barbara Lewis, Charles McIlhenny and Edward Mei. The group had also represented the Prop 22 Legal Defense and Education Fund as a plaintiff at the trial court level. On March 11, the Supreme Court ordered the city of San Francisco to stop issuing marriage licenses. Five months later, the court declared that the city had overstepped its authority and nullified all the marriages. The fight over the constitutionality of same-sex marriages is now under way in San Francisco Superior Court. Recently, ADF and the Florida-based Liberty Counsel were allowed party status in the trial court battle. In their motion on Friday, ADF lawyers argued that they had “contributed substantially” to the litigation, raising several arguments “covered exclusively” or “in greater detail” than the AG. “In many ways,” Tyler wrote, “the work of [ADF] and the attorney general complemented one another to cover the vast array of complex issues that were raised by this case.” The AG’s office isn’t taking a position on the fee dispute. “We’re fully confident the Supreme Court will make a fair and equitable decision,” Hallye Jordan, spokeswoman for Lockyer, said Friday. The ADF based its $228,000 tab on the prevailing hourly rates for attorneys “with comparable skill and experience” in San Francisco. The rates ranged from $200 per hour for attorneys Elizabeth Murray and Dale Schowengerdt to $475 an hour for attorney Benjamin Bull. Schowengerdt had the biggest individual fee, nearly $47,000 for about 235 hours of work. ADF Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence, who argued the case before the court, billed nearly $42,000 at $450 per hour. “This litigation,” Tyler wrote, “required high-level briefing and oral argument on complex constitutional issues which turned on a very quick time frame.” He also noted that although ADF didn’t charge its clients for the work, the group and its clients risked being hit with costs if the city had prevailed. “So although they had nothing to gain financially, and nothing tangible to gain beyond their interest as members of the public who seek to have the law enforced,” Tyler wrote, “the petitioners risked being assessed � costs as a result of the decision.” The city has until Dec. 10 to respond. ADF will then need to reply by Jan. 10. The case is Lewis v. Alfaro, S122865. McKee and his partner were among the couples whose marriage licenses were invalidated in August.

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