485 U.S. 953 (1988)

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U.S. Supreme Court

TEXAS v. NEW MEXICO , 485 U.S. 953 (1988)

485 U.S. 953

State of Texas, Plaintiff
New Mexico.
No. 65.

March 231, 1988

On motion for allowance of interim fees and disbursements.

The motion of the Special Master for allowance of interim fees and disbursements is granted.

Justice BLACKMUN, dissenting.

Charles J. Meyers, formerly the dean of Stanford Law School and now a partner in the Denver branch of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, a large Los Angeles law firm, on July 2, 1984, was appointed by this Court, see 468 U.S. 1202, to succeed the Honorable Jean S. Breitenstein, Senior Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit and since deceased, as Special Master in this litigation between Texas and New Mexico.

In December 1985, the successor Master filed an application for interim fees of $33,511 and for reimbursement of expenses of $702.09, a total of $34,213.09. That request was granted by the Court over three dissenting votes. See 475 U.S. 1004 (1986 ). Chief Justice Burger, writing for the dissenters, complained about Master Meyers' omission of "any information concerning the experience levels of the four attorneys for whose services he seeks to charge"; about the absence of any statement that the four even were members of the Bar; and about the lack of information as to hourly rates charged. Ibid. The Chief Justice cited his corresponding dissent to the allowance of compensation requested by this same applicant as Master in Louisiana v. Mississippi, 466 U.S. 921 (1984). He repeated his earlier observation that a Special Master's charges, when allowed by the Court, " 'represent our assurance to the parties that the charges are reasonable and proper,' " and that this is so even where "the parties do not oppose the application." 475 U.S., at 1004. THE CHIEF JUSTICE also

Page 485 U.S. 953 , 954

noted: " 'I believe the public service aspect of the appointment is a factor that is not to be wholly ignored in determining the reasonableness of fees charged in a case like this.' " He stated: "The contending litigants have a right to expect this Court to exercise its independent judgment on fees rather than requiring each or both of them to challenge the amounts." Id., at 1005.

In September 1986, this Special Master once again moved for interim fees, this time for an amount totaling $69,608.50. The Court granted that motion as well. 479 U.S. 806 (1986).

The present application for more interim fees and for reimbursement of expenses was filed January 11, 1988. Master Meyers now requests $69, 661.25 in fees and $2,544.37 for expenses, a total of $72,205.62. He says that these amounts are those incurred since the interim allowance of $69, 608.50 in late 1986.

The applicant attaches a computer printout to his motion. He asserts that nearly all the work during this period was performed either by him or by Diana Poole, "who has replaced Steven Crafton as my law clerk on this matter"; that clerk Crafton left the Denver office of the firm in August 1986; and that Ms. Poole assumed her duties in July 1987 and, revealingly , "expended considerable effort in the early months mastering the background of the case before commencing research on the issues arising in devising a decree."

The Master points out once again that he is a partner in his law firm and is head of its "Natural Resources Group"; that he received his law degree from the University of Texas and his master's and doctoral degrees from Columbia University; and that he has taught at Texas, Columbia, and Stanford, and was dean of Stanford Law School for five years. He states that Ms. Poole received her law degree in 1983 from the University of Minnesota, where she was an editor of the Law Review, and that she now is an associate (nonpartner) lawyer in his firm's Denver office. She worked for one year as a law clerk for Judge Myron H. Bright of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, and "has been in private practice for over three years."

The Master requests compensation for his time at a "weighted average" of $275.12 per hour. He requests compensation at a "weighted average" of $ 181.30 per hour for the time of Ms. Poole. He says that he spent 85.25 hours on the case; that Ms. Poole spent 246.25 hours; and that small additional amounts of time were ex- [485 U.S. 953 , 955]

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