FREE PRESS --  A Marin County school district owes a student's attorney a much lower legal bill after illegally censoring the student's article eight years
ago, reports Brian Stewart for the Student Press Law Center.

Instead of the nearly $1.5 million legal bill initially requested by Andrew
Smith — who penned an article in 2001 that was censored by administrators
— a trial court ruled the Novato Unified School District will pay
$336,350 in attorney fees. The California Court of Appeal in San Francisco,
Calif., affirmed that decision May 28.


The only matter left to settle is the amount of interest the school
district will be required to pay on that total, which a trial court will decide
within a few months, said Stephan Birgel, who represented the school
district.


Birgel said the reduced amount was "a good ruling," noting he
felt the requested $1.5 million was "very unrealistic." Birgel said
the figure was high because the plaintiffs had included "a lot of
excess," including charging to rent cars, learning new trial technology,
and claiming six hours of attorney fees for a one-page form.


The lawsuit stemmed from Smith's 2001 editorial titled
"Immigration" in the school's newspaper, the Buzz.
Smith criticized immigration laws, causing some students to protest.
Then-Principal Lisa Schwartz quickly implemented prior review and postponed a
second column by Smith titled "Reverse Racism."