NEW ORLEANS – A district court has granted, in part, a group of citizens' request to have deposition fees charged by a certified public accountant to be paid by the City of Gretna in a case involving alleged disproportionate arrests of African-Americans in the municipality.
On April 30, U.S. Magistrate Judge Janis van Meerveld granted, in part, Tamara G. Nelson and others' request to have their CPA's deposition fees processed. Nelson, along with several others, filed suit against The City of Gretna Prosecutor Walter J. LeBlanc, alleging that the city made arrests of more African-American citizens than others for alleged violations of municipal ordinances during 2014-2015.
According to the court filing, fines and fees for that year that resulted in arrests accounting for over 13.5 percent of the total revenue in the city's general fund. Nelson and others are representing themselves in the matter.
CPA Harold Asher was retained as an expert witness to provide his opinion "and financial analysis of the City of Gretna’s budgeting." Asher charged a first hour fee of $930, and $465 for each additional hour. However, according to court papers, Nelson and others argued that Asher's rate was unreasonable. They claim that the prevailing rate for local experts is substantially less than the $930 per hour that Asher had requested.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Janis van Meerveld New Orleans Bar Association
As a result, Asher refused to appear without a guarantee that he would be compensated at his preferred rate, court papers state. Judge van Meerveld found that Asher's rate is indeed reasonable, ruling that Nelson and others must pay Asher for "one hour of preparation time and one hour of deposition time at the rate of $465 per hour. Although his rate of $465 per hour is at the high end, it falls within the range of rates in the community. It is his standard rate, and it is the rate that Defendants are paying," van Meerveld wrote.
The judge added that Nelson and others will have to pay Asher's $465 rate for any time in excess of one hour of deposition testimony, "but this time shall be calculated in quarter-hour increments."