The Virginia General Assembly passed a bill earlier this week limiting the amount of money attorneys can charge military personnel when they are sued while deployed.
Virginia Del. Joseph Lindsey, D-Norfolk, told The Virginian-Pilot that “fees have shot up” for lawyers who take on cases involving soldiers being sued while overseas.
Lindsey’s bill unanimously passed both the Virginia House and Senate, officially capping these legal fees at $125.
According to Lindsey, Virginia attorneys were charging up to $500 or $600 for “writing a few letters” and other legal work as basic as notifying active-duty troops that they were being sued in the first place.
Lindsey wanted to prevent troops from being ordered to pay a default judgment — when a court fines a defendant for not being present to contest the claim against him or her — when they cannot physically be in court because they’re deployed.
Virginia State Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, balked at the notion of steep legal fees for such routine labor.
“This is perfunctory work, isn’t it?” Obenshain said after Lindsey presented the bill last week.
Lindsey said that before his bill, the issue of increased legal fees for deployed soldiers was particularly problematic in Hampton Roads, where he had practiced law since 1984.
The Virginia General Assembly first authorized lawyer fees in 2006 but didn’t explicitly rule they had to be reasonable until 2016. It also empowered Virginia attorneys to file subpoenas for evidence collection in cases involving active-duty military personnel.