CONCORD, N. H. – Lawyers for two young sisters who were sexually abused by their parents while in foster care earns 40 percent of the $6.75 million settlement they reached with New Hampshire’s child protection agency, a judge ruled Friday.
That equates to $2.7 million for lawyer Rus Rilee and two colleagues, who is four years that the girls and their grandparents, to see other clients and earn income for several years. Judge Gillian Abramson said the lawyers deserve more than the usual 25% fee, because their work led to a greater public accountability in such cases, and because the grandparents strongly agreed with the higher amount.
“The public order and the general welfare of the children, to be encouraged by the willingness of lawyers to take on these difficult cases,” she wrote. “Lawyers should not be discouraged from carrying out such cases, and an example of legal representation ought to have some guarantee of fair remuneration.”
The grandparents sued the Department for Children, Young people and Families in 2016, claims to be the biological parents subject their daughters to “horrific” abuse during the visits without supervision in 2013 when the police are investigating reports that they had molested other children in a homeless shelter. Under the settlement, reached this month, the state agreed to pay $6.5 million to the girls, ages 8 and 5, and $500,000 to the grandparents that she has.
At a session of the fees of the attorneys, the grandparents “passionately praised their lawyers for them are available around the clock and setting up plans to make sure the girls are protected “financially and emotionally” for the next 65 years, Abramson said.
More generally, they also said that the lawyers successfully challenged the status quo of secrecy in child abuse cases, resulting in a ruling that parents may waive some confidentiality provisions to hold the state accountable.
“The court agrees with the plaintiffs counsel that this case is profoundly different from a typical personal injury case, having regard to the revolutionary reforms they have achieved for clients by the change of the law itself,” she said.
The parents pled guilty to child pornography and sexual abuse of the girls and the service of 25 years to life in prison. The state agency, meanwhile, is engaged in a broad transformation with new leadership, additional resources and the revised policy.