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Nebraska Supreme Court Hears Arguments About TransCanada Owing Landowners $350,000 in Lawyer's Fees

Legal battles over TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline rage on, but this one doesn’t have anything to do with whether or not the project should be allowed to proceed.

This argument is over the multi-billion dollar company’s responsibility to pay the approximately $350,000 in legal fees owed to attorneys David Domina and Brian Jorde for representing the 71 landowners in their fight against TransCanada’s attempts to seize their land through eminent domain.

TransCanada’s lawyer argued that the landowners never made a contract with the Domina Law Firm to pay for specific legal fees. However, Domina argued that because his clients clearly asked for legal representation in their cases, the work was done, and the eminent domain case was dismissed in 2015, the company owes the Domina Law Firm the legal fees accrued over the nearly decade-long court battle.

Domina continued, saying that there was no legal obligation for the landowners and his firm to agree on a specific hourly rate ahead of time, and that the specific amount requested – $8,840 per case – was based on what the firm would typically charge clients.

“We're here today on behalf of 71 landowners who are appellees in 40 separate cases in which every county court judge ruled in their favor, finding that section 76-726 justified an award of $8,841 in attorney’s fees and expenses for defending their land against TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline,” Domina said. “Each of the 40 original cases sought to take land away from our clients.”

Domina argued that the Nebraska Supreme Court made their position clear in the 2013 decision of Black v. Brooks where the court said that it had never required that attorney’s fees need to be paid in order to justify the awarding of attorney’s fees in cases where they are permitted in the history of its existence.

The Lincoln Journal Star spoke with Domina about the details of their agreement with the landowners, who said that the firm has not disclosed the details of their arrangement,

“and we still won’t,” he said, calling it a tactical decision. “We’re doing business against one of the best financed companies, most ready to spend its money on lobbyists and lawyers in the history of our state. And they have been ruthless with our clients.”

The Nebraska Court of Appeals is unlikely to hear arguments on the appeal of the approval of an alternate pipeline route until September, keeping the $8 billion project in limbo for the foreseeable future.

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