Jonathan Crow QC (file photo)
The battle to ban same-sex marriage has cost taxpayers more than $400,000 in outside legal fees, the government has revealed.
The Interior Ministry said The Royal Gazette that $411,627 had been spent so far on outside lawyers and law firms.
This figure does not include the cost to the public purse of having government lawyers in the attorney general’s chambers working intensively on the case.
It also does not take into account future costs that may have to be paid for the opposing party if the government loses the long-standing case.
A judgment has yet to be given after the Privy Council in London heard arguments last February on whether same-sex marriage in Bermuda should be banned.
But a Home Office spokesman said the government’s “costs to date related to the appeal in the Attorney General v. Ferguson et al. case total $411,627”.
Figures show Jonathan Crow QC, of 4 Bedroom Stone Buildings, London, was paid $99,281.
He was enlisted by the government to argue with the Privy Council that same-sex couples should not be allowed to marry.
Ranking agency Legal 500 said Mr Crow was “probably the most persuasive lawyer in the bar”.
The government has added a junior lawyer, Tom Cross of Chambers 11KBW, to help Top Silk. He was paid $26,841.
James Guthrie QC (Photo from 3 Hare Court website)
Accommodation and airfare costs for James Guthrie QC, of 3 Hare Court Chambers, London, totaled $19,638.
The Home Office spokesperson added that Mr Guthrie’s other labor costs were paid through Charles Russell Speechlys, a global law firm headquartered in the UK capital.
Company lawyers were hired by the government for the Privy Council case.
Figures released by the department showed a total of $265,866 was paid to Charles Russell Speechlys.
The latest figures were revealed in response to questions from the Gazette.
They come after Gitanjali Gutierrez, the Information Commissioner, concluded that the attorney general’s office was justified in denying access to records on costs related to the legal battle against same-sex marriage.
Ms Gutierrez said the records requested by The Royal Gazette in February 2019 were not covered by the Public Access to Information Act as they related to statutory functions of public authority – an excluded category.
But she added that “nothing in the Pati law prevents the government or other public authority from proactively disclosing the costs of public litigation throughout appeals or at their conclusion for the sake of good governance.”
Pati’s request asked the attorney general’s office for the total amount spent by the government, including what had been paid to Mr. Guthrie – who was hired for an appeal in 2018 – his office and other legal services not provided by the firm.
The request was denied on the grounds that the documents were exempt, in accordance with a clause in the Pati law which states that the legislation does not apply to “documents obtained or created by” certain authorities, including the office of the Attorney General, “in the course of the exercise of their functions”.
An internal review confirmed the initial conclusion and the Gazetterequested an independent review by the Information Commissioner, whose decision will be posted online on Wednesday.
Gitanjali Gutierrez, the information commissioner (file photo)
In its decision, sent to the Gazette last week, Ms. Gutierrez noted that records related to the general administration of certain specified public authorities fell within the scope of the law.
But she pointed to an earlier civil court decision in which Puisne Judge Shade Subair Williams agreed that “records relating to matters concerning the primary business of the relevant public authority are not records relating to the general Administration”.
Ms Gutierrez disagreed with Gazettewho argued that the requested documents related to “expenses incurred from the public purse for the same-sex marriage legal matter and as such should be considered related to the general administration” of the Attorney General’s office.
The Home Office spokesman said last week that the government was ‘not in a position to comment’ on whether it should pay the court costs and costs of defendants in the case, or how much that will be. could be.
In November 2018, a government spokeswoman said Walter Roban, the Home Secretary, had pledged to the public to provide a definitive figure on the cost to the Bermuda government of the appeal once the determined total.
Timeline of same-sex marriage in Bermuda (Infographic by Sharneil Paynter)
The attorney general was named in 2018 as a defendant in a civil case started by Bermudian Rod Ferguson.
The government had previously unsuccessfully defended a discrimination case brought by Winston Godwin and Greg DeRoche in 2017, which allowed same-sex marriages to continue for the first time.
Mr Ferguson’s lawsuit was joined with a case brought by OutBermuda and other litigants, represented by Rod Attride-Stirling, a Bermudian lawyer.
The government lost the Ferguson/OutBermuda case in June 2018, when the Chief Justice ruled that a section of the new Domestic Partnership Act banning same-sex marriage violated the Constitution.
He appealed and the case went to the Court of Appeal in November 2018.
The three-judge panel ruled that the DPA chapter was included for religious purposes, which was prohibited by Bermuda’s secular constitution.
The Court of Appeal dismissed the legal challenge and the government sought leave to appeal to the Privy Council – Bermuda’s highest court of appeal – in December 2018.
* To read the Information Commissioner’s decision in full, click on the PDF under “Related Media.”