Judge awards city attorney fees in mask warrant case
BY LISA HOROWITZ
In an unusual federal court ruling this week, District Court Judge David C. Nye ordered the Health Freedom Defense Fund to pay the city of Hailey for its attorney fees incurred defending the city’s mask mandate put in place. in place during the Covid-19 pandemic to protect the public.
Hailey had hired Deborah Ferguson of Ferguson Durham who successfully defended the civil rights challenge and won the attorneys’ fees order.
“Attorney fees are very rarely awarded to dominant state and local governments as defendants in civil rights cases,” Ferguson noted. “Winning plaintiffs, on the other hand, are entitled to their fees when they win against the government. To award government costs, a court must find that the lawsuit against him was frivolous, unreasonable or without merit. Judge Nye found that these exceptional circumstances existed in the case, such that Hailey’s ratepayers will not be liable for the city’s legal bill.
The suit was dismissed with prejudice in March 2022 when the Court found that the challenge did not “allege plausible legal claims”. The Court upheld local government authority to enact public health orders, including those stricter than public mask mandates.
In its decision awarding Hailey attorneys’ fees, the Court found the claims to be without merit or reasoned merit and frivolous. The attorney fees awarded amount to $29,650.