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.
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.