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Revere contests porn case fees

REVERE, Massachusetts — Mayor Thomas Ambrosino said the city will appeal a Superior Court decision requiring the city to pay almost $1 million in fees for a lengthy legal battle with pornography store Moonlite Reader. The City Council declined to enter executive session, and council leadership said the body would unanimously support Ambrosino’s decision to appeal the ruling by Suffolk Superior Court Judge Ernest Murphy. https://www.adultfyi.com/read.aspx?ID=2223 Murphy ruled this month the city must pay $915,027 in legal and expert witness fees incurred by T&D Video, Inc., the store’s parent company. Murphy wrote in his decision that the city “unduly prolonged this litigation by causing delays at various stages…(and) enforced unconstitutional zoning regulations enacted for the sole purpose of ‘zoning out’ T&D Video’s” business. And despite an injunction and two legal decisions supporting the store and the recent ruling ordering compensation for T&D’s expenses, Ambrosino said further appeal is the only hope of avoiding the hefty payment. “I think we have a chance on appeal,” said Ambrosino. “It is the only option for the city.” Ambrosino also said he would have urged the city settle with T&D Video years ago if it would have saved the city the long and expensive legal battle, but said the city’s only chance to avoid paying the nearly $1 million bill is to continue litigation. The case began while former Mayor Robert Haas, now a City Councilor, was in office. But T&D Video attorney Glenn Alberich said this week he believes the decision to appeal the February ruling would end up costing Revere more in the end. If the city loses the appeal, which Alberich says it certainly will, the city will be required to pay the $915,027 bill for legal fees plus 12 percent interest on that money for the duration of the appeal, T&D’s attorney fees and expenses for the appeal, plus their own attorney fees for the case, which has dragged on since 1993. Alberich called an appeal a “fiscally unsound” and “ridiculous” option for the city. He said the decision to appeal is politically motivated, a play to put off paying the judgment until a later date. “Common sense and the common good of the citizens of Revere have taken a backseat to politics and bad judgment,” he said in a prepared statement. “The city of Revere will suffer the consequences.” In anticipation of Ambrosino’s announcement, Alberich said he was hopeful the City Council would take action against the appeal. “I am anticipating that a number of citizens, and hopefully a number of the City Council members who have some sense of fiscal prudence, would want to put an end to this because this is a situation where Revere is going to have to pay a lot more money to stop from making an immediate payment.” But the council declined to discuss the litigation in executive session, and City Council President Mark Casella expressed the council’s support for the continued suit. Moonlite Reader, owned by Thaddeus Drabowski and Del Paone, first opened its doors in December 1994, but by then, the legal battle had already begun. After T&D applied for permits to open the adult video store in 1993, the city enacted a zoning regulation restricting where similar stores could operate. The new ordinance required adult stores to be located in industrial zones and placed setback guidelines for distances to schools and homes. The ordinance prevented T&D from opening anywhere in the city. T&D attorneys filed an appeal of the ordinance in early 1994, and were awarded an injunction preventing the city from enforcing the ordinance by the state’s Supreme Judicial Court. The store has operated “without any incident and without any negative effect on the community whatsoever,” according to Alberich. The court ruled against the city again in 1996, and in 2002 the case went to trail. Murphy ruled the city’s ordinance restricted free speech. Under civil rights law, the video store then asked the court to order Revere to pay legal fees and expenses for the case, which Alberich estimated at more than $1.2 million. The city said because the legal fee estimate was exorbitant – what city attorney Ira Zeleznik says was a first bid in a negotiation process hoping to get part of the full amount – it should pay nothing. “The counsel gave a very bloated and excessive fee,” said Zeleznik. “They are supposed to be awarded a reasonable fee, and by no stretch of the imagination can this fee be considered a reasonable fee…this was a request for fee that was an introduction, an opening bid, as if they were negotiating a private transaction. “If you want to end up at X dollars, you come in at X times three as your initial demand,” said Zeleznik. While Zeleznik says the city has a good chance of being ordered to pay a much smaller award on appeal, Alberich said the city has “no good faith basis for an appeal of the final judgment. The only basis is to avoid the inevitable, which is to try to avoid the attorney’s fees.”
 

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