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Attorneys want $9.5 million for legal work on Oklahoma DHS lawsuit

Children's Rights, a New York-based advocacy group, asked a judge Monday for $9.5 million for attorneys' work on the lawsuit that pushed the Oklahoma Department of Human Services into reforming its child-welfare practices.
by Nolan Clay and Randy Ellis Modified: June 19, 2012 at 12:07 am •  Published: June 19, 2012

A child advocacy group asked Monday for $9.5 million for the legal effort its attorneys and others put into a federal class-action lawsuit that pushed DHS into agreeing to reforms.

Children's Rights, a New York-based group, asked a federal judge for $8,345,588 for its attorneys' time on the case and $912,711 for the group's legal expenses.

The group asked that a New York firm that helped in the case be paid $262,120 for the firm's expenses.

The advocacy group's executive director, Marcia Lowry, is seeking to be paid at a New York City rate of $700 an hour. Other attorneys are seeking to be paid from $175 to $375 an hour.

The attorneys argued their request is reasonable and that their dedicated work achieved a historic and life-altering result for Oklahoma's children.

“But for the dedication and resources of the lawyers of Children's Rights, none of these changes would have occurred,” attorneys told U.S. District Judge Gregory Frizzell in their application for payment. “This historic and comprehensive reform did not come easily. The defendants employed the full resources of the state to oppose the reformation.”

Tulsa attorney Frederic Dorwart, who also helped Children's Rights in the case, did not charge for any of his firm's time or expenses.

Officials at the Department of Human Services have budgeted only $4 million to pay the group.

Children's Rights sued DHS officials in 2008 in federal court in Tulsa. The group sued on behalf of the state's foster children.

The group alleged in the lawsuit that DHS policies and practices are so bad that neglected and abused children are being harmed or are at risk of harm at state shelters and foster homes.

DHS commissioners agreed to make reforms to its child-welfare operations when they voted in January to settle the lawsuit.

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by Nolan Clay
Sr. Reporter
Nolan Clay was born in Oklahoma and has worked as a reporter for The Oklahoman since 1985. He covered the Oklahoma City bombing trials and witnessed bomber Tim McVeigh's execution. His investigative reports have brought down public officials,...
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by Randy Ellis
Investigative Reporter
For the past 30 years, staff writer Randy Ellis has exposed public corruption and government mismanagement in news articles. Ellis has investigated problems in Oklahoma's higher education institutions and wrote stories that ultimately led to two...
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