Sanctioned pro-Trump lawyers balk at Detroit's 'exorbitant' legal fee bid

Attorneys L. Lin Wood and Sidney Powell hold a press conference
Attorney Sidney Powell looks at attorney L. Lin Wood as he speaks during a press conference on election results in Alpharetta, Georgia, U.S., December 2, 2020. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage
  • Sidney Powell, others sanctioned after suing to overturn Trump defeat in Michigan
  • Detroit officials are seeking more than $180,000

(Reuters) - Lawyers who unsuccessfully sued to overturn former President Donald Trump's election defeat in Michigan are objecting to the city of Detroit's bid to recover more than $180,000 in legal fees and related costs.

In a series of filings Wednesday night, attorneys for former Trump campaign lawyer Sidney Powell, conservative litigator L. Lin Wood and others painted Detroit's bid as a clear overreach.

"All in all, the city’s request for fees is exorbitant and unreasonable," wrote Paul Stablein, a Birmingham, Michigan attorney representing Wood. Stablein declined to comment further.

The lawyers pointed to the state of Michigan's far lower fee request for its work defending against the same lawsuit, which alleged widespread fraud in the U.S. presidential election in Michigan. U.S. District Judge Linda Parker dismissed the case in December and sanctioned the lawyers last month, calling the lawsuit "a historic and profound abuse of the judicial process."

Parker ruled last month that state and local election officials in Michigan were entitled to reimbursement of their legal fees after sanctioning Powell, Wood and the others. However, she did not determine the amount of legal fees.

The office of Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel asked for $21,964.75 in attorney fees, which the sanctioned attorneys argued was a fair request.

The city of Detroit, represented by commercial law firm Fink Bressack, requested more than $182,000 in attorney fees. The sanctioned attorneys argued that Parker should award Detroit the same amount in attorney fees as the state.

"The state defendants achieved the same result as the city of Detroit. They both successfully opposed the plaintiffs’ motion for a temporary restraining order and they both filed successful motions for sanctions. Yet the city spent over five times the amount expended by the state defendants to achieve the same outcomes," wrote Donald Campbell, a Southfield, Michigan attorney who is representing pro-Trump lawyers Howard Kleinhendler, Scott Hagerstrom, Julia Haller, Brandon Johnson Gregory Rohl, and Powell.

David Fink, the managing partner of Fink Bressack who spearheaded the push for sanctions, defended the time he and his firm put into litigating the case.

"The Trump lawyers argue that we spent too much time fighting their false claims," Fink said in a statement. "But, this case was an attempt to subvert the lawful election of the president of the United States, and it deserved the best possible representation."

"When the purveyors of these frivolous lawsuits say we should have done less work, that’s nothing more than the fox telling us how we should protect the henhouse," he added.

In her sanctions order, Parker formally requested that disciplinary bodies investigate whether the pro-Trump lawyers should have their law licenses revoked. She also ordered the lawyers to attend classes on the ethical and legal requirements for filing legal claims.

Campbell and Timothy Galligan, an attorney for sanctioned lawyer Emily Newman, did not respond to requests for comment.

(This story has been updated to include comments from David Fink, the attorney for the city of Detroit, and Paul Stablein, who represents L. Lin Wood.)

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David Thomas reports on the business of law, including law firm strategy, hiring, mergers and litigation. He is based out of Chicago. He can be reached at and on Twitter @DaveThomas5150.