Baca v. Berry
The Campaign Legal Center represents a group of voters whose lawsuit challenging Albuquerque’s city council redistricting has exposed them to possible liability for the city’s attorneys’ fees. After the case was brought, a significant change to Albuquerque’s method of electing city councilors prompted the voters to seek dismissal of their suit without prejudice, which would have allowed them to bring another lawsuit if the new law failed to fix problems with the map. But the city sought to have the case dismissed with prejudice, which would have prevented the voters from filing another challenge. After initially declining to dismiss the case at all, the district court months later dismissed the case with prejudice and granted the city’s motion to sanction plaintiffs’ attorneys for prolonging the case, ordering them to pay $48,000. The attorneys are appealing this sanctions order, and the city is also appealing, arguing that the voters who brought the case should also be on the hook for fees and insisting that the total fees should be far higher than $48,000. The case is now before the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. Oral argument is expected this spring.