Judge denies Palin request for fees in lawsuit

JUNEAU — A federal judge on Wednesday denied Sarah Palin’s request for more than $22,000 in attorney fees in a case against her that was dismissed.

U.S. District Judge Timothy Burgess last year dismissed a case against the former Alaska governor by activist Chip Thoma, saying Thoma didn’t provide the evidence necessary to support his claims. Thoma alleged Palin had acted to silence him for complaining about tourist bus traffic on the narrow, windy streets around the governor’s mansion in 2009.

Burgess in October ordered that Palin recover costs, but on Wednesday denied her request for attorney fees. In his written decision, he said courts have limited situations in which defendants may recover attorney fees to those where claims against them were “frivolous, unreasonable, or without foundation.” But he said he cannot conclude that was the case here, noting the limited record in the matter and that neither party engaged in discovery.

“It’s nice to be told you weren’t frivolous,” Thoma’s attorney, James McGowan, said. The lawsuit, he said, was aimed at “vindicating” Thoma’s First Amendment right.

Thoma had claimed that Palin undertook an effort, while governor, to “punish, embarrass, discredit and silence” him after he complained about traffic around the mansion after she returned to Alaska from her failed 2008 vice presidential bid. He said this had a chilling effect on his First Amendment right.

Thoma referred to excerpts from a book by Frank Bailey, a Palin aide during that period. But Burgess ruled that quotes from the book were, among other things, inadmissible hearsay and said Thoma lacked the personal knowledge to authenticate the statements in the book.

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