McDermott Ordered to Pay More Than $1 Million in Legal Fees to Boehner

Posted April 1, 2008 at 12:00pm

A federal judge ordered Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) to pay more than $1 million in legal fees to House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), a move expected to finally end the more than decade-long dispute between the two lawmakers over a leaked phone conversation.

In a lengthy opinion issued Monday night, Chief Justice Thomas Hogan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ordered McDermott to pay Boehner $1,053,181.40 in attorneys’ fees and costs, in addition to approximately $40,000 in interest. Those costs are in addition to more than $60,000 that McDermott was previously ordered to pay for statutory and punitive damages in the case.

The legal battle began after a Florida couple illegally recorded a 1996 telephone call between GOP leaders, including Boehner, who were discussing an ethics case against then-Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.). The tape was given to McDermott, who then leaked it to the media. Boehner sued McDermott in 1998 for violating his privacy rights.

In a statement Tuesday, McDermott defended the high cost of the case.

“This has been a long and costly battle but, in the final analysis, the judgment handed down today in the U.S. District Court is a small price to pay in defense of so fundamental a principle, and freedom, as the First Amendment,” McDermott said.

“I submit that defending the First Amendment is beyond measure and worth every penny.”

“Congressman McDermott broke the law, and as a result, he shattered the bonds of trust between our institution and the men and women we represent in the halls of Congress,” Boehner commented. “I remained committed to this case in order to begin restoring those bonds, and to uphold the belief that no one – not even Members of Congress – is above the law.”