Rep. Maxine Waters is entitled to more than $50,000 in attorneys’ fees and costs from the Republican opponent she defeated in the November election as compensation for defending herself against a libel and slander suit dismissed last month, a judge said in a tentative ruling issued Wednesday.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Yolanda Orozco found April 5 that there was no evidence Waters acted with malice toward her political foe, Joe E. Collins III, who alleged the 82-year-old congresswoman’s campaign materials and radio commercials falsely stated that the Navy veteran was dishonorably discharged.
Collins said he served honorably for 13 1/2 years in the Navy, receiving decorations and commendations.
In her tentative ruling, Orozco said the $53,590 in attorneys’ fees and costs sought by Waters, D-Los Angeles, is reasonable and that she is therefore entitled to the entire amount sought.
Collins’ attorney, Donna Bullock, questioned both the amount of time Waters’ lawyers say they spent on the motion as well as the $770 hourly rate of one lawyer.
“Collins respectfully requests that the fees be reduced significantly to an amount below $10,000 or outright denied,” Bullock wrote.
“Here, it cannot be reasonably argued that the time billed by defense counsel was excessive when (Collins) necessitated (Waters’) counsel’s work,” wrote Orozco, who is scheduled to hear arguments Thursday before issuing a final ruling.
According to Collins’ court papers, he left the Navy as a decorated veteran “upon a general discharge under honorable conditions” so he could run for office, which he could not do while on active duty.
Last Sept. 17, the Waters campaign published a two-sided piece of literature with an “unflattering” photo of Collins that stated, “Republican candidate Joe Collins was dishonorably discharged, played politics and sued the U.S. military. He doesn’t deserve military dog tags or your support,” according to the suit.
The reverse side of the ad had a photo of Waters and text complimenting her for her record with veterans, according to the plaintiff.
In a sworn declaration in favor of dismissing the suit, Waters stated that the information was obtained from a decision by U.S. District Court Judge Michael Anello.
“In other words, I am being sued for quoting the written decision of a federal judge in my campaign literature,” she said.