A man without self-control
My attorney sent me a copy of the court documents submitted for fees. I expected the fees to be a little higher, but they are still a big chunk of change.
Here is the top portion of the document:
Many people have been wondering how much the pastor/church will have to pay in court costs and legal fees for the this case. Below is a screen shot of the document. (If you like legalese, you can read the full 26-page document here.)
For the record - this does not cover any travel/food/lodging expenses, nor does it cover 1-1/2 days off work for Hannah. I live more than 4 hours away from the courthouse and required an overnight visit for both court dates. Because we were not required to be in court, our expenses were not covered.
I want to post some of what I consider to be key parts of the legal document here. When our story spread through the media, the overwhelming response was, "what in the world?" and "what kind of pastor would do something like that". People were outraged and rightly so. Some Christians expressed that they were ashamed of that response and were embarrassed. In comments on articles on the internet and on my blog, many quoted the verse from the Bible where Christians should not sue other Christians (1 Corinthians 6), others quoted the verse about turning the other cheek (Matt 5:39), etc. Both believers and non-believers alike were overwhelmingly shocked and appalled by the idea of suing another Christian. They were not only shocked at the lawsuit, but equally appalled by the dollar amount of the lawsuit.
Factors considered in calculating the award of fees are set out at ORS 20.075(1) and (2). The ORS 20.075(1) factors usually are considered to determine whether to award fees at all but also play a role in evaluating the reasonable amount to award when fees are mandated. Those factors are:
(a) The conduct of the parties in the transactions or occurrences that gave rise to the litigation, including any conduct of a party that was reckless, willful, malicious, in bad faith or illegal.
(b) The objective reasonableness of the claims and defenses asserted by the parties.
(c) The extent to which an award of attorney fees in the case would deter others from asserting good faith claims or defenses in similar cases.
(d) The extent to which an award of attorney fees in the case would deter others from asserting meritless claims and defenses.
(e) The objective reasonableness of the parties and the diligence of the parties and their attorneys during the proceedings.
(f) The objective reasonableness of the parties and the diligence of the parties in pursuing settlement of the dispute.
(g) The amount that the court has awarded as a prevailing party fee under ORS 20.190.
(h) Such other factors as the court may consider appropriate under the circumstances of the case.
The "reasonableness" of conduct factors enumerated under ORS 20.075(1)(a), (b), (d) and (e) strongly favor Defendants. Plaintiffs’ Complaint and Amended Complaint alleged an intent to seek punitive damages. All of the 17 claims against Julie Anne Smith and the 4 against Meaghan Varela were based on isolated words and phrases, and all lacked any context or explanation through properly plead innuendo, thus failed to conform to Oregon pleading rules [ORCP 18], indicating a lack of careful consideration prior to filing suit for $500,000.
There were 17 different claims against Julie Anne Smith, 1 against Hannah and 4 against Meaghan Varela. Each statement had to be moved against separately and the basis for the defense set out in detail (religious belief, opinion, opinion based on state facts, etc). The number of claims was the major reason that legal research and individual motions took the amount of time invested.
The single claim against Hannah Smith was not well-taken. It is very unlikely many Oregon attorneys would have thought it reasonable to include this young woman in a suit for $500,000 in damages for her single online comment that the Plaintiffs’ were "no-way Biblical." It is even more unlikely anyone would repeat the same allegation in the Amended Complaint after its weakness should have become evident from the discussion in the Smiths’ motions filed on April 27, 2012.
Plaintiffs also served a "notice" of intent to depose other church members not named in the lawsuit on May 3, after the Special Motions had been filed, which was a violation of the automatic stay of discovery [ORS 31.150] arising from the earlier filed Special Motions. The attempt to circumvent the stay was not reasonable. Other litigation conduct by Plaintiffs prolonged litigation and caused additional effort and response by Defense Counsel, discussed more specifically under "hours of effort," pp. 8-17, post.