Saturday, January 22, 2005

Attorney for Roberts Goes for the Green

The dirty little secret of environmental law: How do environmental lawyers make the big bucks? Is Katherine Roberts really rich enough to pay for a pricey environmental attorney like Tom Lippe? Well, yes and no. According to my notes of the Nov. 7 HANC meeting, Ross Mirkarimi said that Roberts has already paid Lippe $50,000 to fight the garage in Golden Gate Park. That's not chump change, to be sure. But the big payoff for environmental lawyers like Lippe comes at the end: if the case can be defined as an issue in the public interest, they can "file for fees," especially when they can argue they've won even a partial victory.

In the Roberts/Lippe case, Tom Lippe is probably going to argue in court Monday morning that forcing the Concourse Authority to design a garage entrance beginning outside the park is enough to justify his filing a Motion For Fees, even though he lost on the main issue of stopping the construction of the garage. The City Attorney will be opposing the attempted raid on the city's treasury, and we should hope he's successful, since Lippe will be asking for a sum well into the six figures, though I haven't seen the paperwork yet and don't know exactly what he's asking for. Do I hear $250,000?

File this one under Unintended Consequences: Katherine Roberts hired Lippe to stop construction of the underground garage in Golden Gate Park. Last August, Judge Warren ruled against them on the garage issue but ordered the Concourse Authority to design an entrance to the garage that begins outside the park, as per Prop. J passed by city voters in 1998. The result has been something no one really wanted---a redesigned MLK Blvd. from Ninth and Lincoln to the Concourse.

And only Lippe and his family want another unforseen consequence of litigation supposedly on behalf of the Golden Gate Park environment---a big bundle of cash from a city government already deep in red ink.

We might find out tomorrow morning at 9:30 a.m. in Superior Court, room #301.

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