TULSA — A federal judge has awarded $6 million to a New York-based advocacy group for its work on a lawsuit that caused DHS to reform its child welfare practices.
The state of Oklahoma is responsible for paying the award.
Children's Rights last year asked for $9,520,419 in attorney fees and expenses.
The Department of Human Services argued the group should get only $2.6 million to $3.7 million “if the court determines that the plaintiffs are entitled to an award at all.”
In a March 31 order, U.S. District Judge Gregory Frizzell awarded the group $6,011,888.
The child advocacy group sued DHS officials in 2008 in federal court in Tulsa.
The class-action lawsuit was settled last year when DHS agreed to make changes.
Award was reduced
The group sued on behalf of the state's foster children. The group alleged DHS policies and practices were so bad that neglected and abused children were being harmed or were at risk of harm at state shelters and foster homes.
The judge significantly cut how much Children's Rights attorneys will be paid largely because of problems with their bills for time spent on the case. The judge described the bills as vague, insufficiently detailed, excessive and duplicative.
The judge wrote he also considered the inefficiencies in work on the case caused by high turnover at Children's Rights.
Children's Rights does not plan to appeal the order over attorney fees and expenses.
“We think that this is really the time to get to the point of implementing the really good settlement that we got,” said Marcia Lowry, Children's Rights executive director. “It's too bad that it took so long and such an expensive fight but we're there. And we can, I think, really start to see some good results for children.”
DHS is considering whether to appeal.
“We are reviewing the judge's ruling with our counsel, the attorney general's office and the governor's office before making a decision of how to proceed,” DHS spokeswoman Sheree Powell said.