Homeless Unit Must Pay $147K Water Bill
A lawyer for the embattled Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless said a recent rejection from the U.S. Supreme Court means the group has to begin paying off at least $147,000 in water bills to the city of Atlanta for its shelter at the corner of Peachtree and Pine streets.
"It's our plan to catch up on all of our debts," said Task Force attorney Steven Hall of Baker Donelson Bearman Caldwell & Berkowitz. "We've not heard any sort of official word from the city about what they're going to do. We're certainly interested in talking to the city, to try to get a way to resolve this."
The high court's denial of the Task Force's petition for certiorari, which challenged federal court decisions saying it owed the city for the water, wraps up four years of uniquely tough litigation, as described by Senior Assistant City Attorney Laura Burton.
"I've handled a lot of complex litigation, but nothing similar to this, nothing with a fact-pattern and history like the one here," said Burton. "I would describe it as extremely complex, and extremely time-consuming."
The unpaid water bill was only part of the dispute, which included allegations by the Task Force that the city had engaged in a conspiracy with downtown business groups and other institutions to drive the shelter out of its Midtown locale. The resulting discovery demands were extensive.
"There was substantial document production required during discovery," said Burton's colleague, Senior Assistant City Attorney Jeffrey Haymore.
According to Kimberly Patrick, the city's interim deputy attorney for litigation, Burton and Haymore spent more than 2,200 hours litigating the action.
Hall estimated that he and firm partner Robert Brazier put in more than $1 million worth of time—had the lawyers been charging the Task Force for the representation.
The parties attempted to reach some accord at various times during the litigation to end the impasse over the Task Force's operation of the shelter, which houses hundreds of homeless men on any given night, Haymore said.