Friend Dorian Roffe-Hammond knows I'm a sucker for anything and everything related to the ACF (Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint) Basin dispute among Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. So I was overjoyed when he sent me a link to a recent article in The Daily Report (metro Atlanta) titled, 'Water Master Tells Georgia and Florida: Speed Up Case or Settle It'.
The article described the effort of Ralph Lancaster, Jr., of Portland, ME, who is the U.S. Supreme Court's special master in the latest ACFB water dispute, to speed up the litigation schedule.
What struck me was the following passage (emboldened italics are mine):
On the Dec. 15 conference call, Lancaster suggested that the parties consider a settlement with an "escape clause" such that either side could withdraw from the agreement if the information on which the settlement is based turned out to be erroneous. At the close of the Dec. 15 call, Lancaster said the discussion "underscores the increasingly large cost of this transaction." In a subsequent letter to the parties attaching the new schedule, he urged them to "aggressively explore settlement possibilities."
Earlier, on a Dec. 1 conference call, Lancaster told the parties his current hourly rate is $650 but he would request only $550, given former U.S. Supreme Court justices' comments that serving as a special master on appointment by the high court is a matter of public service. Lancaster said an associate assisting him on the matter, Joshua Dunlap, normally bills at $275 per hour; Lancaster proposed a $225 rate for him.
A special master's fees and expenses generally are borne by the parties, and the master is paid or reimbursed by filing a motion with the high court. Lancaster, who is on his fourth special master appointment by the Supreme Court, told the parties in the Georgia-Florida case that he has in similar cases assessed charges equally between parties. But he warned, "I have the discretion to modify them if it's warranted for any egregious behavior." He said allocation of charges to the U.S. Department of Justice, which has weighed in on the case at the request of the Supreme Court and has until Feb. 9 to tell Lancaster to what extent it wishes to continue to participate, will be considered later.
Note that Lancaster's 'reduced rate' equals an annual salary of over $1M per year (although I fully realize that Lancaster's is not a full-time job). But, hey, he's got to supplement that puny social security.
Nice to know that we still have some public-minded, altruistic lawyers.
"Of course I've got lawyers. They are like nuclear weapons, I've got em 'cause everyone else has. But as soon as you use them they screw everything up." - Danny DeVito