Government

Judge OKs $3.1 million lawyer fees in Branstad discrimination case

Former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, now the U.S. ambassador to China, testifies Friday , June 14, 2019, in a Polk County co
Former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, now the U.S. ambassador to China, testifies Friday , June 14, 2019, in a Polk County courtoom. He is named in a lawsuit brought by a former state employee who asserts that Branstand wanted him out because the employee is gay. (Pool photo from the Des Moines Register)

DES MOINES — Lawyers who represented a former state official found to have been discriminated against by former Gov. Terry Branstad should be paid $3.1 million for their work on the case.

Judge Brad McCall said the attorneys earned significant fees for their work. They successfully represented former Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner Chris Godfrey at trial and won him a $1.5 million verdict against Branstad, a staffer and the state.

Attorneys Roxanne Conlin and Paige Fiedler sought $3.5 million but McCall adjusted the final amount to nearly $3.1 million in his order signed and posted with the online court system Friday.

Branstad, now U.S. ambassador to China, was found to have discriminated and retaliated against Godfrey in 2011 because he’s gay.

So far Iowa has paid private lawyers hired by Branstad about $2.9 million to represent him.

Gov. Kim Reynolds decided last month to appeal the case to the Iowa Supreme Court.

If Godfrey prevails on appeal, taxpayers must pay the total costs including the $1.5 million verdict to Godfrey and both sides’ attorney fees of about $6 million.

Reynolds has said the additional costs of appeal are worth the risk that the state may win the appeal and eliminate a significant portion of the costs.

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