Sterling to pay $5M in plaintiffs' lawyer fees

Updated: November 3, 2005, 6:07 PM ET
Associated Press

LOS ANGELES -- A judge ordered Los Angeles Clippers owner and real estate mogul Donald T. Sterling to pay nearly $5 million in fees to plaintiffs' attorneys in a lawsuit accusing him of discriminating against black and Latino tenants.

The case was resolved with a financial settlement that the judge described as one "one of the largest ever obtained in this type of case," though the terms were not disclosed.

U.S. District Judge Dale Fisher's order, dated Wednesday, ordered Sterling to compensate plaintiffs' attorneys in a 2003 lawsuit alleging Sterling tried to drive out non-Korean tenants, particularly blacks and Latinos, at apartments he owned in the city's Koreatown neighborhood.

After the suit was filed, Fischer banned Sterling from using the word "Korean" on his buildings and from collecting information about tenants' birthplaces.

The judge chided the defense for what she described as "scorched earth" legal tactics, calling the defense's conduct "often unacceptable, and sometimes outrageous."

Sterling's attorney, Michael Kennick, did not immediately return a call for comment Thursday.

Attorneys for the 19 plaintiffs include the nonprofit Housing Rights Center. Liam Garland, the group's litigation director, declined comment.

The defense argued that the plaintiffs sought too much money in attorneys' fees, and the judge agreed to award them $4.92 million instead of the $5.15 million they had requested.

The ruling came two weeks after some good legal news for Sterling: a jury found in his favor in a lawsuit filed by a former property manager, Sumner Davenport, who claimed he had sexually harassed her.

Davenport had also alleged that Sterling's companies had racially prejudiced employment and housing practices, an allegation denied by Sterling's lawyer in the case.


Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press