Central Park Jogger Case Fee Spat Belongs in 2d Cir.

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By Nicholas Datlowe

Aug. 3 — Attorneys for a man wrongly imprisoned in the Central Park Jogger case will continue their fight for fees in the Second Circuit, after that court Aug. 3 ruled they had consented to a magistrate judge's jurisdiction ( In re McCray, Richardson, Santana, Wise & Salaam Litig., 2016 BL 250681, 2d Cir., No. 15-1887, 8/3/16 ).

Kharey Wise was one of five men convicted of beating and raping Trisha Meili in 1989 while she was jogging in Central Park. The attack left her in a coma for 12 days.

All five men were exonerated in 2002 when the lone perpetrator confessed and DNA evidence confirmed his involvement.

The law firm of Stevens, Hinds & White, P.C. represented Wise from 2003 to 2009 in his civil suit against New York City.

Wise then replaced SHW with Fisher & Byrialsen PLLC, which represented him through the settlement of his claims in 2014.

SHW moved, before the magistrate judge who had overseen the settlement, for a share of the attorneys' fees awarded as a part of Wise's settlement. They were awarded nearly $240,000 in fees and expenses, but sought more and appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

Parties Consent, Not Attorneys

FBK argued that the Second Circuit lacked jurisdiction because the law firms hadn't agreed to resolve their dispute under the auspices of a magistrate judge and 28 U.S.C. §636(c). Therefore the fee award was only a recommendation reviewable by the district court, they argued.

But Section 636(c) requires only that the parties consent to the magistrate judge's jurisdiction, Judge Amalya L. Kearse wrote for the court.

The fee fight was ancillary to Wise's civil rights suit, and all of the parties in that case had consented to the magistrate.

“Nothing in” the law “suggests that consent of attorneys in their own right is required for the magistrate judge to exercise the civil jurisdiction allowed by §636(c)(1),” the court said.

The court did not rule on SHW's appeal of the fee award size.

Judges Rosemary S. Pooler and Robert D. Sack joined the opinion.

To contact the reporter on this story: Nicholas Datlowe in Washington at ndatlowe@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at jkamens@bna.com

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