Cook v. Greenleaf Twp.

Decision Date04 January 2022
Docket Number2:16-cv-14060
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Michigan
PartiesSHELLY COOK, et al., Plaintiffs, v. GREENLEAF TOWNSHIP, et al., Defendants.

SHELLY COOK, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.

GREENLEAF TOWNSHIP, et al., Defendants.

No. 2:16-cv-14060

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

January 4, 2022


OPINION & ORDER (1) GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR ATTORNEY FEES (Dkt. 128) AND (2) GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO PLACE THE JUDGMENT ON THE TAX ROLLS (Dkt. 127)

MARK A. GOLDSMITH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

This case was tried in December 2018 on Plaintiffs Shelly Cook's and Christina Gibbard's claims of First Amendment retaliation, assault and battery, and violations of Michigan's Open Meetings Act (OMA). The jury found in Plaintiffs' favor on the battery claims and in Gibbard's favor on the OMA claim. See Judgment (Dkt. 92). Following entry of the judgment, Gibbard filed a motion for attorney fees (Dkts. 94, 112), which the Court granted in part (Dkts. 109, 121). Defendants Greenleaf Township, Rosie Quinn, Randall Schuette, Judy Keller, and Ken Brown appealed the Court's award of attorney fees to Gibbard (Dkt. 122). The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit issued an opinion affirming the award of attorney fees (Dkt. 124).

Following the Sixth Circuit's opinion, Gibbard filed a motion for attorney fees incurred on appeal (Dkt. 128), and Defendants filed a response (Dkt. 131).[1] Defendants also filed a motion to place the judgment on the Township's tax rolls (Dkt. 127). Gibbard filed a response to Defendants'

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motion (Dkt. 129), and Defendants filed a reply (Dkt. 130). The Court held hearings on Defendants' motion on November 12 and December 13, 2021. Following the first hearing, Defendants filed an affidavit (Dkt. 135) of the Township's clerk, Defendant Judy Keller, and Gibbard filed a memorandum in response (Dkt. 136). For the following reasons, the Court grants Gibbard's motion for attorney fees and grants Defendants' motion to place judgment on the Township's tax rolls.

I. ANALYSIS

The Court considers Gibbard's motion for attorney fees before turning to Defendants' motion to place judgment on the tax rolls.

A. Attorney Fees

Pursuant to Mich. Comp. L. § 15.273(1), a public official who intentionally violates the OMA “shall be personally liable in a civil action for actual and exemplary damages of not more than $500.00 total, plus court costs and actual attorney fees to a person or group of persons bringing the action.” Gibbard was originally awarded attorney fees under § 15.273(1), and she now moves under § 15.273(1) to recover the attorney fees that she incurred on appeal ($8, 340). She asks that the Court add the amount incurred on appeal to the amount of attorney fees already owed ($137, 724.50). Gibbard has produced appropriate evidence to demonstrate that her fees on appeal totaled $8, 340, see Invoice (Dkt. 128-2), and Defendants do not argue that these fees are “illegal or clearly excessive, ” Zoran v. Twp. of Cottrellville, 913 N.W.2d 359, 362 (Mich. Ct. App. 2017).

However, Defendants argue that Gibbard is not entitled to recover attorney fees that she incurred defending her award on appeal for a different reason: § 15.273(1) does not expressly provide for an award of attorney fees incurred as a result of an appeal of an opinion awarding

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attorney fees pursuant to the statute. Defs. Resp. to Pl. Mot. at 6. Defendants' argument is unpersuasive for several reasons.

First, Defendants cite no authority to support their position that attorney fees incurred as a result of an appeal of an opinion awarding attorney fees under § 15.273(1) are not recoverable merely because the statute does not expressly mention attorney fees incurred on appeal. Nor is the Court aware of any such authority.

Second, Michigan courts have determined that...

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