BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - The attorney who led seven same-sex couples to challenge North Dakota’s ban on gay marriage plans to seek legal fees from the state now that the lawsuit he brought has been settled, he said this week.
Minneapolis attorney Josh Newville said now that U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson ruled in favor of him and his plaintiffs, he can start to pursue attorney’s fees. Erickson issued a ruling on Monday, saying the state’s ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional and invalid.
Erickson’s ruling comes in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that declared same-sex couples have the right to marry nationwide.
Under federal law, attorneys in federal civil rights cases can petition a court to award them legal fees if a court finds in their favor.
The attorney said he first plans to talk with Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem to see if a deal can be struck.
“We may be able to come to a settlement without having to make a motion to the court,” he said.
Stenehjem’s office was closed Friday. He could not be reached for comment.
Newville plans to pursue similar action in South Dakota, where he filed a lawsuit challenging the state’s ban on behalf of six same-sex couples.
While he speculates that the legal fees in that state, where the case reached the federal 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, could be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, he expects to seek considerably less from North Dakota.
Erickson announced in January that he was putting the case on hold until the U.S. Supreme Court ruled.
“Obviously that case didn’t get as far, and so the fees are substantially less than they will be in the South Dakota case,” he said.
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