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State v. Williams

Supreme Court of Minnesota

February 5, 2014

State of Minnesota, Appellant,
v.
Artiase Dvon Williams, Respondent.

Office of Appellate Courts Court of Appeals

Lori Swanson, Attorney General, Saint Paul, Minnesota; and Susan L. Segal, Minneapolis City Attorney, Paula J. Kruchowski, Assistant Minneapolis City Attorney, Minneapolis, Minnesota, for appellant.

Sharon E. Jacks, Minneapolis, Minnesota, for respondent.

Faison T. Sessoms, Attorney at Law, Minneapolis, Minnesota, for amicus curiae Minnesota Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

Michael O. Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney, Jean Burdorf, Assistant Hennepin County Attorney, Minneapolis, Minnesota, for amicus curiae Minnesota County Attorneys Association.

SYLLABUS

1. An appellate court reviews for abuse of discretion the hourly attorney-fee rate set by a chief district court judge under Minn. Stat. § 611.27, subd. 16(b) (2012), for a defendant in a State's pretrial criminal appeal.

2. Because the Chief Judge of the Fourth Judicial District did not set an attorney-fee rate until after the State had already appealed and defense counsel had performed the majority of her work in this pretrial appeal, and because the court of appeals was not presented with an adequate record supporting the rate the Chief Judge set, the court of appeals did not abuse its discretion in awarding the defendant a rate for attorney fees that was different from the rate the Chief Judge set.

OPINION

GILDEA, Chief Justice.

This case involves a dispute over the amount of attorney fees to which the defendant is entitled in the State's pretrial appeal. The court of appeals granted respondent Artiase Dvon Williams his full fee request. The only dispute before the court of appeals was the hourly rate the court should apply to the hours of work performed. Williams sought $120 per hour for a total of 30.3 hours of work. The State contended that for 9.2 of these hours, the court was required to use $50 per hour, which was the rate set in a standing order the Chief Judge of the Fourth Judicial District entered pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 611.27, subd. 16(b) (2012). Because the court of appeals did not abuse its discretion in awarding attorney fees in this case, we affirm.

This attorney-fee dispute arises in connection with the State's charges that Williams carried a pistol into a public place without a permit, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 624.714, subd. 1a (2012), and drove after suspension of his license, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 171.24, subd. 1 (2012). The district court granted Williams's motion to suppress the gun, and on September 24, 2012, the State appealed the court's suppression order. The court of appeals reversed the order. State v. Williams, A12-1719, 2013 WL 1395643 (Minn.App. Apr. 8, 2013).

Williams filed a motion for attorney fees with the court of appeals, seeking $3, 636 in fees for 30.3 hours of work on the State's appeal. In his motion, Williams requested that his attorney receive $120 per hour for the work performed on the appeal. The State did not argue that either the amount of work defense counsel performed or the $120-per-hour rate sought was unreasonable. The State argued only that the court of appeals was required to apply the $50-per-hour rate set in a standing order the Chief Judge of the Fourth Judicial District entered on November 17, 2012, to that portion of the work defense counsel performed after the Chief Judge's order. The court of appeals granted the amount Williams requested. State v. Williams, No. A12-1719, Order at 2 (Minn.App.). We granted the State's petition for further review.

On appeal, there is no dispute that Williams is entitled to attorney fees. But the State argues that the court of appeals erred when it granted Williams the entire amount he requested. The State relies on a statute enacted in 2012 that addresses attorney fees for criminal defendants when the State appeals a pretrial order. Act of April 23, 2012, ch. 212, § 17, 2012 Minn. Laws 367, 375-76 (codified at Minn. Stat. § 611.27, subd. 16 (2012)). The statute provides that in such appeals, "reasonable attorney fees and costs incurred shall be allowed to the defendant on the appeal which shall be paid by the governmental unit responsible for the prosecution involved in accordance with paragraph (b)." Minn. Stat. § 611.27, subd. 16(a).[1]

Paragraph (b) of subdivision 16 provides a process for the chief judge of each of the state's 10 judicial districts to set an hourly ...


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