Occupy Boise: Idaho should pay $175K in legal fees

BOISE, Idaho (AP) Members of Occupy Boise are asking a federal judge to order the state to pay more than $175,000 in attorney costs and legal fees after the group won a lawsuit over rules designed to curb protests and rallies around the Capitol.

Under federal law, the winner of a lawsuit can generally seek to recover attorney's fees and costs from the losing side. The fees and costs must be approved by a judge and they can be appealed, just like the verdict itself.

Occupy Boise and the American Civil Liberties Union of Idaho asked U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill to order the state of Idaho to pay them nearly $176,000 to cover the cost of the attorneys on the case and another $2,400 for transcripts, audio recordings and other court costs. The payment is justified, Occupy Boise contends, because they won the case and because the lawsuit will protect the rights of those planning future protests at or near the Idaho Statehouse.

The state attorney general's office has not yet filed a response to Occupy Boise's motion. Kris Bivens-Cloyd, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, said the office did not have any comment on the case.

The lawsuit stems from the state's response when protesters who took part in the Occupy Boise movement set up a tent city on Idaho's Capitol Mall near the Statehouse in November 2011. The tent city was part of a national movement of protests expressing discontent with the government's failure to protect U.S. citizens from the housing bubble's collapse while bailing out Wall Street.

The tent city and protest were still underway in 2012, when Idaho Republicans began arguing that the prolonged event wasn't appropriate and that the encampment's occupants were creating a mess. GOP lawmakers tried to evict the protesters by passing a law allowing them to be forcibly removed, but the protesters immediately sued in federal court. Winmill eventually ruled that the Legislature's law violated free speech rights.

In 2013, the Idaho Legislature once again sought new laws targeting the Occupy Boise movement by putting time limits on overnight protests, and Winmill once again found the laws unconstitutional. The judge also ordered the state to comply with his decision forever, siding firmly with the protesters' free speech rights.

In their motion requesting attorneys' fees and court costs, the ACLU attorneys noted that Occupy Boise prevailed "again and again" and the court ruling would benefit others in the future by protecting demonstrations and deterring the state from interfering with free speech rights.