Louisiana spent six years trying to defend a restrictive abortion law in federal courts—and it may now have to pay almost $9 million to the lawyers who defended abortion clinics. The Center for Reproductive Rights has filed a request for $8,407,418.83 in attorneys fees and $246,929.35 in "nontaxable expenses," reports CBS News. As the prevailing party, the group is allowed to recover expenses under federal civil rights law, it said in a filing Monday, per Bloomberg. The Louisiana law, which required doctors who performed abortions to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2020—four years after a near-identical Texas law was also declared unconstitutional.
"Louisiana has spent immense resources and taxpayer money on this six-year court battle," says Center for Reproductive Rights attorney Julie Rikelman. "This time and money should be spent on real issues in Louisiana, like addressing the state's maternal mortality crisis or the impacts of the COVID pandemic." Adding to the expense, the Advocate notes that records show state attorney general Jeff Landry spent about $2.5 million on outside law firms hired to deal with the bulk of the case. "There’s no reason to have to hire outside counsel for these cases, at all," says New Orleans lawyer Ellie Schilling, an expert on reproductive rights law. "They could handle these cases in-house. And if they did it that way, then we as taxpayers would have already paid the salaries of the people working on these cases." (Read more Louisiana stories.)