By Steve Plunkett
The town owes 11 lawyers who represented resident Martin O’Boyle in a public records case more than $65,000 for their legal work, a Palm Beach County circuit judge ruled July 30.
Gulf Stream and a 12th O’Boyle lawyer, Elaine Johnson James, were also given 10 days to agree on her legal fees or seek a hearing to determine them. James had submitted a bill for $6,897 not including time spent arguing about the fees.
The case “is but one — of several — antagonistic disputes” between O’Boyle and the town, Judge Glenn Kelley wrote in his ruling, the first judicial review of contested legal fees between the parties. O’Boyle’s attorney’s fees in three other cases still must be decided, with bills ranging from $35,000 to $340,000.
The litigation centered on a June 17, 2014, request that O’Boyle made to see who got copies of a letter he had written the town about rules on sober homes. The town gave him three documents two days later; he filed suit July 3, 2014, seeking more, and the town provided two additional documents July 10, 2014. The case was mediated last November, and a consent final judgment came Dec. 18.
O’Boyle’s lawyers argued they should be paid for work through the judgment; the town said it should be liable only up to when the last records were produced. Kelley agreed with O’Boyle.
“It is clear to the court that this case was litigated beyond what was candidly necessary,” Kelley wrote. “Nevertheless the court concludes that … the plaintiff is entitled to costs of enforcement (attorney’s fees) through the conclusion of the case.”
Jonathan O’Boyle, Martin’s lawyer son, will receive the largest amount under Kelley’s ruling, $16,590. He did not respond to an email seeking comment before deadline.
The two sides reached a settlement in December with the town paying Martin O’Boyle $15,000 to drop five cases and admitting it violated the Public Records Act in four others.