By Dan Horn
The Cincinnati Enquirer
The legal battle over the demotion of a transsexual police sergeant four years ago will cost Cincinnati taxpayers more than $870,000.
The original total more than doubled Friday when a federal judge added $550,000 in attorney fees to the $320,000 that Police Officer Philecia Barnes - formerly Phil Barnes - won last year in U.S. District Court.
Judge Susan Dlott said the amount was justified because Barnes' lawsuit was an "extraordinary" civil rights case.
Federal civil rights laws allow attorneys to not only seek standard hourly fees, but also enhancements of those fees based on the importance and difficulty of the case. The law is designed to encourage lawyers to take on important civil rights cases, even if the money in dispute is small.
"This was no average sex discrimination case," Dlott wrote in her ruling Friday. "The novelty and difficulty of this question, combined with the immense skill requisite to conducting the case properly, merits an enhancement (of the fees)."
City Solicitor J. Rita McNeil acknowledged that Barnes' attorneys, led by Cincinnati lawyer Al Gerhardstein, are skilled and worked hard on the case. But she said additional fees are not warranted.
"I think this is inappropriate," said McNeil, who said she will appeal the decision. "It is usually a discretionary and extreme remedy to enhance the fees, and I just don't see the basis to do so."
Gerhardstein said city officials have only themselves to blame. He said if they had not discriminated against Barnes in the first place - and then fought so hard against her in court - the loss to city taxpayers would be much lower.
"The city brought this fee on itself," Gerhardstein said.
Barnes' lawsuit contended her intention to change her gender was the only reason for her demotion from sergeant to patrol officer during her six-month probationary period.
City lawyers argued that Barnes' grammar, time management and paperwork were not adequate.
A jury ordered the city to reinstate her and pay her damages. Barnes could have returned to her old job as a sergeant, but decided instead to take a $140,000 payment and return as a patrol officer.
Legislation protects tracks
Miami U. raises tuition 8.5%
Parents' plea: Lock up your guns
Poll: Economy is No. 1 issue
Judge says city must pay lawyers $550,000
IN THE TRISTATE
Tax issue divides rivals in GOP's Senate contest
Bike trail gets go-ahead
Mideast politics enliven Miami
War memories for all to see on Heroes site
Retaking a neighborhood
How to get started as a patrol
Work on Deerfield Twp. housing for seniors begins
Candidate's wife finds support
Make a racket and run from danger, kids told
Reading High student dies in crash on I-71
Miami campus marks role in civil rights movement
Undercover team tracks gun sales
Haitian youth's dances help orphanages at home
Cops arrest Ch. 9 reporter; sex with minors charged
3 clash in GOP fight for House
Cops pass hat for diploma
Enjoy weekend, because March can play tricks
Hofmeister: Rybolt signal needs to let more cars pass
Faith Matters: Church programs to look deeper at season of Lent
National award recognizes firm
Sr. Beverly McGuire, was college dean
Jim Murphy started city's Irish parade
Davis, Murphy get down, dirty
Phone talk pays at NKU
Cost of service strains cities
They need stomps for romps
N. Ky. News Briefs