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Inmates' lawyers in death row heat case defend $887,500 bill; state seeks dramatic reduction


BATON ROUGE, Louisiana — Attorneys for three Louisiana condemned killers contend they've exercised sound billing judgment in seeking more than $887,000 for successfully defending the prisoners' claims.

The lawsuit claimed the summer heat on death row is unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment.

The Advocate reports (http://bit.ly/1KhcoAw) the state's lawyers last month asked Chief U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson to drastically reduce the amount of fees and costs sought by the inmates' attorneys, alleging, among other things, that those attorneys have overstaffed the case and that the money they seek is excessive.

But in a written response Wednesday to those allegations, the lawyers for Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola inmates Elzie Ball, Nathaniel Code and James Magee vigorously defended their handling of the case and their billing and asked the judge to award them fees and costs consistent with their $887,500 request.

"Plaintiffs have already made a reduction of more than 20 percent of hours expended, which further demonstrates plaintiffs' careful exercise of billing judgment," Mercedes Montagnes, the inmates' lead attorney, states in the court filing.

Jackson, in December 2013, found the state in violation of the three inmates' constitutional rights by allowing extreme heat indexes on death row during the summer.

While appealing the judge's ruling and order that heat indexes not exceed 88 degrees, the state has proposed a daily cool shower, a personal ice chest and more fans for the ailing inmates.

A federal appeals court in New Orleans has ruled in the case that air conditioning is not necessary to cure the constitutional violations.

Information from: The Advocate, http://theadvocate.com

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