WOODSTOCK – A judge put an end to the back and forth between Strasburg Mayor Richard Orndorff Jr. and the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office over a petition aimed at removing the mayor before his term expires in May.
On Monday, Judge Alexander Iden handed down a final order in the case, ordering the town of Strasburg to pay Orndorff’s attorney, Phillip Griffin II, $2,700 for his work on the case. The court determined Griffin’s argument that “reasonable” attorney fees should be covered by someone other than his client but ruled that the amount of time Griffin and his office spent on the case was “not consistent with those generally charged for similar services.”
Iden wrote that an “appropriate and necessary” amount of time would have been 2.7 hours of Griffin’s time and 6 1/2 hours of paralegal time leading up to the Nov. 1 hearing, when the case was dismissed, and 1.3 hours since would have been appropriate.
Between the time the petition was filed on Sept. 16 and the most recent hearing on Jan. 2, Griffin told the court his office spent 64 hours on Orndorff’s case, according to court documents. Griffin charged $350 an hour for his time and $200 an hour for his paralegal. Griffin submitted documents showing Orndorff’s legal fees, including time and expenses, were $17,592.
In the final order, Iden wrote that a fee of $17,000 “for a case that was dismissed by nonsuit at the beginning of the first hearing,” was more than similar cases warranted. He wrote that services Griffin supplied were not necessary or appropriate.
Griffin said he was surprised at the judge’s decision considering he attended court hearings in October, November, December and January “in a case that should have been dismissed in late September.”
The commonwealth’s attorney never filed an objection to Griffin’s affidavit stating the fees Orndorff incurred throughout the case.
Iden wrote that “neither the law nor the facts were complex in this case. The petition was fatally flawed as it was not under oath.”
Residents consulted an attorney from another county who had experience with a similar case, which was dismissed for the same reasons.
Griffin said the lawsuit was “frivolous” and Orndorff should not be responsible for legal fees in such a suit.
“I was surprised,” Griffin said. “This judge seemed to disagree with all the other judges that heard these types of cases that have awarded nearly all attorney fees in frivolous types of lawsuits.”