SCRANTON ‚?? Attorneys representing thousands of juveniles in the ‚??kids for cash‚?Ě class-action lawsuit are seeking $4.3 million of the $17.75 million settlement reached with real estate developer Robert Mericle.
The fee, which would be divided among dozens of attorneys, is $990,000 less than what was initially proposed, and could be reduced further if it‚??s determined there are insufficient funds to cover claims filed by parents of affected juveniles, according to a court motion filed Monday by lead counsel in the case.
The motion, filed by attorney David Senoff, comes two weeks before U.S. District Judge A. Richard Caputo is scheduled to rule on whether to give final approval to the settlement and attorneys‚?? fees.
Mericle was among numerous people who were named in a class-action suit filed by juveniles who alleged they were wrongly incarcerated by former Judge Mark Ciavarella as part of a scheme to financially benefit Ciavarella and others.
Mericle, who built two juvenile centers utilized by the county, denies any wrongdoing. He agreed to settle the matter because of the benefits it provides juvenile plaintiffs and to avoid the risk and expense associated with the litigation, the court documents say.
The settlement will pay affected juveniles $500 to $5,000 each, dependent upon several factors, including whether they were incarcerated. Some juveniles who suffered additional harm, such as psychological problems, will be entitled to additional compensation from an enhanced benefit fund.
The settlement also sets aside $500,000 to compensate parents who were required to pay the cost of incarcerating their children.
In seeking approval of the attorneys‚?? fees, Senoff noted Mericle had agreed not to contest any attorney fee award up to $5.3 million. Despite that, the plaintiffs‚?? attorneys have agreed to seek $4,335,000 ‚??in order that the maximum amount of monetary relief can go to the class members,‚?Ě Senoff said.
Senoff said the fee, which equals roughly 24.4 percent of the settlement, is justified because attorneys have spent nearly 35,000 hours on the highly complex litigation. If they billed on an hourly basis, the fee would be more than $10.7 million, he said.
In addition, the attorneys have agreed to reduce the $4.3 million fee if it‚??s determined the amount set aside for parents claims is insufficient.
A hearing on whether to approve the settlement and attorneys‚?? fees is scheduled for Nov. 19 at 10 a.m. before U.S. District Judge A. Richard Caputo in the federal courthouse located at 197 S. Main St., Wilkes-Barre. The hearing is open to the public.