Earlier this week, WW reported that lawyers for Mark Long, the former director of the Oregon Department of Energy, are seeking $432,000 in legal fees for their representation of Long in a case against the Oregon Department of Justice.
Marion County Judge Thomas Hart previously awarded Long's lawyers at the Harrang Long Gary Rudnick firm fees in the case, Long v. Kroger, which centered around the claim that the DOJ did not release records to Long regarding a 2010 investigation of contracting at his agency.
In court filings earlier this month, Harrang Long lawyers argued that not only were they due $432,000 for their work, but that Judge Hart should double that amount because DOJ under former Attorney General John Kroger had "black-balled" the firm from getting other public sector work, specifically assignments from the University of Oregon.
Historically, DOJ either represented state agencies, including universities, or when necessary, oversaw the hiring of outside counsel for those agencies. As part of the ongoing effort to give the state's public universities more autonomy a law that went into effect this year permitted the universities to hire their own lawyers.
But in a July 2 declaration he filed as part of Harrang Long's request for doubling its fees, University of Oregon General Counsel Randolph Geller asserts (PDF) that when he tried to hire Harrang Long, the DOJ would not let him.
Geller goes on to say that in two subsequent cases, the U of O also could not hire Harrang Long because of state objections. (It's worth noting that former U of O President Dave Frohnmayer now works for Harrang Long and billed his time a $550 per hour in the public records case.)
"DOJ denied that request, citing a conflict on the part of [Harrang Long]," Geller wrote. "DOJ never articulated what the specific nature of that conflict was, but said only that DOJ would not allow the University to hire [Harrang Long] because [Harrang Long] had brought a lawsuit against the Attorney General. I told DOJ that I saw no conflict on that basis. I also told DOJ that the cases were wholly unrelated and that the University would waive any conflict. DOJ refused to allow [Harrang Long] to represent the University."
John Dunbar, the DOJ lawyer in charge of the Long v. Kroger case, says his agency does not comment on pending litigation.