Better Late Than Never: Judge orders Colorado Ethics Watch (CEW, pronounced “sue” – it’s what they do) to pay legal fees owed to Clear The Bench Colorado since July ruling
Better Late Than Never…
The latest chapter in the ongoing saga of the legal harassment of the grassroots judicial accountability organization Clear The Bench Colorado by ‘Colorado Ethics Watch’ (CEW, pronounced “sue” – it’s what they do) was wrapped up with this week’s ‘Order Awarding Attorney Fees and Costs‘ to CTBC resulting from CEW’s “frivolous, groundless, and vexatious” complaint filed against CTBC on 5 May 2010.
The court denied CEW’s latest attempt to weasel out of paying their debt to Clear The Bench Colorado pursuant to the judge’s 21 July 2010 ruling on CEW’s 5 May 2010 complaint. (CEW had earlier engaged in legal maneuvering to delay payment, which should have been forthcoming in October at the latest, in order to push resolution of the case past the elections).
The ‘Order Awarding Attorney Fees and Costs‘ confirmed the complete lack of legal merit in CEW’s original complaint against Clear The Bench Colorado:
Because CEW’s claim was not supported by the undisputed evidence or by the plain language of the law, the ALJ found CEW’s complaint substantially groundless and frivolous. The ALJ therefore granted CTBC’s request for attorney fees and costs…
Unfortunately – despite relevant case law that entitles CTBC to “all fees and costs incurred prior to the dismissal of the original complaint” – the ALJ reduced the amount of the award based on a subsequent complaint that CEW filed, because some of the defense against the original “frivolous, groundless, and vexatious” complaint supported defense of the later complaint as well.
As a result, the ALJ (Administrative Law Judge) ended up ‘splitting the baby,’ awarding CTBC “$12,987.20 in legal fees and $60 in costs” instead of the full amount necessary to defend against the original complaint (a total of $23,712.50 in fees and costs).
Confirmation of the award of legal fees and costs – and more importantly, confirmation of the “frivolous, groundless, and vexatious” nature of CEW’s original complaint – comes as both victory and vindication for Clear The Bench Colorado. As noted previously by CTBC and knowledgeable observers of the legal and political scenes, the award of legal fees to the defendant is an extreme rarity.
In fact, the monumental nature of Clear The Bench Colorado‘s victory in this case – particularly the award of attorney’s fees – is difficult to overstate. It is rare (indeed, almost unheard of – though not totally unprecedented) for attorney’s fees to be awarded in this type of case, as noted in a previously-published article (“Judicial-reform group lashes back at ‘frivolous, groundless’ complaint“):
Attorneys fees are awarded sparingly by Colorado judges, largely because those requesting the sanction must prove opposing counsel pursued legal action knowing they had little chance of prevailing or failed to do basic research before filing.
The award of legal fees and costs to CTBC indicates that the judge not only thought that CEW’s case (or “complaint”) was bad – he thought it was SO bad that he took the unusual step of censuring CEW and ordering CEW to pay for their professionally unethical conduct.
However, the precedent set in granting only a partial award of incurred costs is troubling. By giving CEW an ‘out’ for part of the costs forced on CTBC because CEW came back for a second round, the intended deterrent effect of the award (intended to dissuade unethical ‘junk’ lawsuits and complaints) is minimized. Indeed, in a perverse way, by splitting out that portion of the costs incurred which might support defense against additional claims, the ALJ’s ruling in effect encourages additional harassing attacks by losers in such cases, as long as they have the resources to continue pressing a claim (continuously doubling down in the hopes – as occurred in this case – of eventually getting lucky).
Groups like CEW – with the massive amounts of funding they receive from their parent organization (Washington, DC based CREW) and from local leftist funders Tim Gill, Pat Stryker, Jared Polis, and Rutt Bridges right here in Colorado, can continue to draw upon deep reservoirs of cash in support of attacks and legal harassment of their ideological foes – abusing the legal system as a political weapon.
Unless and until meaningful sanctions against such abuse of the legal system as a political weapon are implemented and consistently enforced, citizens engaging in civic activity (along with political campaigns at all levels) can expect to continue to be subject to these kinds of harassing attacks.
Clear The Bench Colorado‘s victory against the unethical ‘Colorado Ethics Watch’ – holding them accountable for their abuse of the legal system – is one small step in the direction of restoring some measure of sanity (and accountability) to the courts.
Score another one for the underdog!
It should come as no surprise that the allies of those on the courts abusing the constitutional rights of Colorado citizens would themselves attempt to abuse the courts to achieve their goals. What may have come as a surprise to CEW is that this time – once again – the good guys fought back: effectively.
Fortunately, they can be stopped – by citizens with the courage to fight back. Show your support today – stand up to unethical attorneys and sleazy solicitors, and contribute to help provide the resources for Clear The Bench Colorado to prevail against what are ultimately attacks on YOUR freedom. Support Clear The Bench Colorado with your comments (Sound Off!) and your contributions. Freedom isn’t free –nor is it always easy to be a Citizen, not a subject.
Ultimately, though – it’s worth the effort.
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That is great Matt. Congratulations to your tenacity. /Peter