Maryland has spent more than $2M in legal fees defending against discrimination suit
- The Maryland Higher Education Commission has spent more than $2 million dollars in defense of what a federal judge has classified as a "separate but unequal" system of higher education established between its predominantly white and historically black colleges and universities.
- Attorneys fees have ranged between $200 and $570 per hour over the course of the lawsuit, which was filed in federal court more than 10 years ago. The Baltimore Sun reports the legal fees are only a fraction of the costs to settle the score, with the state's proposed remediation solution coming with a $26 million price tag.
- Judge Catherine Blake ruled in 2013 the state willfully limited the capacity of growth for black colleges, but the plaintiffs and defendants in the case have unsuccessfully brokered for a settlement in the four years following the decision.
For systems and institutions, the takeaway is that the cost of fighting a case in court can often yield a heavy price in legal fees, which in the conversation about fiscal responsibility could yield even more negative publicity than the issue they initially sought to defend. The processes of discovery, testimony and research for trials frequently do not pay off for institutions, which are desperate to show stakeholders a different view of higher education's commitment to affordability and access for all students.
Not only that, but the high cost of Maryland's remedy proposal adds to the perception of fiscal irresponsibility in the state's system of higher education, in addition to piling on additional negative press over the extent to which the state is defending segregation in its public institutions of higher education.