FLINT, Mich. — Federal District Judge Judith Levy has been given a 416-page proposal to pay dozens of attorneys in the Flint water crisis combined civil lawsuits. As proposed, the breakdown would be attorney fees of $202.8 million and attorney expenses of $7.2 million or about 32% of the $641 million settlement with the state and others.
Critics, including former Flint Mayor Karen Weaver, say the fee request is excessive. Michigan Lawsuit Abuse is a group that formed in the 1990s and takes stands on high profile cases including Flint saying, “The settlement to bring #JusticeforFint is 'disrespectful' because out-of-state plaintiff lawyers are raking in millions of dollars on the backs of the people of Flint. Flint needs justice, not a payday for lawyers!”
“Eighty-five TO 90 percent of this settlement is for people who are not part of a class action," said Corey Stern, a lead attorney in the Flint water case. "It is for people who hired lawyers. There’s a very small but vocal group of people who consider themselves community activists and community leaders who are not considering that the folks they’re advocating for most of whom hired lawyers at a rate higher than what this fee request asks for.”
Metro Detroit Attorney Bill Seikaly tells 7 Action News this settlement is not out of the norm. And attorneys who started on this case early did so taking a gamble with expenses coming out of their own pockets. In the proposed settlement, Stern lists 30,000 hours and $1.7 million in expenses.
Seikaly points out that 600 to 1,000 kids in Flint foster care are not part of this case for now.
“Some of it may have to come out of the substantial fee," he said. "It would be a guy like Mike Pitt (one of the attorneys in the case.)”
Melissa Mays lives in Flint and has been fighting for justice and public safety since the crisis started.
“Do I think some of the attorneys have earned this?" she said. "Yes, absolutely. And I know they have spent this. But others especially the ones who have jumped in or do this for celebrity or whatever that aren’t helping us and are causing more problems than helping, no they shouldn’t get this.”
It is not known how Judge Levy will decide this or hold a hearing.
Flint residents still have until March 29 to sign up and be part of the case.