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Miller ordered to pay $85K in records case

Posted: May 21, 2013 - 12:09am

JUNEAU — A state judge has ordered 2010 U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller to pay more than $85,000 in legal costs to the Alaska Dispatch after the publication sued to obtain records from his time as a government attorney.

Judge Stephanie Joannides said the online publication, as the prevailing party, was entitled to 20 percent of its total fees but said that fee schedule can be changed for “vexatious or bad faith conduct.” She said it also can be varied for the relationship between the amount of work performed and significance of the matters at stake.

Joannides found Miller’s conduct in the case, including “taking inconsistent positions, failing to disclose information during discovery, being unavailable for his deposition, and his procedural filings which the record did not support,” caused unnecessary delays and costs for both the Dispatch and the Fairbanks North Star Borough.

In the decision last week, she also found there were significant matters at stake in this case, with the records coming to light near the end of the heated 2010 U.S. Senate race.

“The Dispatch’s fees, as compared to the import and significance of the public’s right to make informed decisions concerning electoral candidates, are reasonable,” she wrote.

The Dispatch said it incurred $112,375 in legal fees and about $2,300 in costs. Joannides ordered Miller to pay 75 percent of the Dispatch’s fees, and the borough to pay 10 percent, just over $11,000. The borough and Miller also were to each pay half of the $2,300 in costs.

Miller was a part-time attorney for the borough for seven years. In 2008, he was disciplined for using work computers for political purposes. That came out after the Dispatch and other news organizations successfully sued for the release of his personnel file from his time with the borough.

Miller accused the borough of improperly leaking information, which the borough denied. Last year, Miller accepted a $5,000 offer from the borough to end the case.

A Miller spokesman on Monday said Miller was reviewing the decision. Miller could appeal.

Miller has said he is considering a run for U.S. Senate next year.

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