By Steve Tawa
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The City of Philadelphia has been ordered to pay hefty legal fees to the local Boy Scouts chapter, which was involved in a federal trial over the national Boy Scouts’ controversial policy of banning gays.
The federal court judge who presided over the federal case has ordered the city to repay the Scouts $877,000 in legal fees.
Bill McSwain, attorney for the Boy Scouts, says the city is on the legal hook because Judge Ronald Buckwalter has denied the city’s motion for a new trial.
“The city has an obligation to pay for the Scouts’ attorney’s fees. In these Constitutional civil rights cases, the wrongdoer has to pay the winner’s attorney’s fees.”
In the 2010 trial, a federal jury found that the City of Philadelphia had violated the local Boy Scouts’ First Amendment rights by requiring the local chapter to reject the national Boy Scouts’ ban on gays or face eviction from their headquarters building in center city (see previous stories).
In his 35-page decision, Judge Buckwalter severely criticized former city solicitor Romy Diaz for essentially caving to a gay rights group that wanted the Scouts to comply with the city’s anti-discrimination laws. The judge cites at least a dozen e-mails between members of the so-called “working group” and Diaz that Buckwalter said could be looked upon as “preferential treatment.”
Mayor Nutter reacted soon after the decision was handed down.
“That component is tremendously troubling,” he told reporters at City Hall. “Quite honestly, some of those elements may have led directly to the fact that we, as a city, lost this case.”
The city has yet to determine whether it will take the case to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.