The L'Enfant Trust v. Sheri L. Orlowitz

L'Enfant Trust
2006 - 2007

During 2006 and 2007, our attorneys successfully enforced a conservation easement held by its client, The L'Enfant Trust. The L'Enfant Trust a charitable organization whose mission is to protect the aesthetic integrity of Washington's historic streets. Owners of historic buildings cede to the Trust the right to change the appearance of their buildings, and, in exchange, can take a tax deduction for the charitable contributions. To succeed in its mission of historic preservation, the Trust must be able to enforce its agreement with the owners and prevent them from changing the property after they have given that right to the Trust. The case we handled involved a donor who changed the color of a historic building over the Trust's objection. She refused numerous requests to restore the building, and bragged about her intransigence to others who dealt with the Trust.

Our litigation team filed a breach of contract action on behalf of the Trust in the D.C. Superior Court, and then quickly moved for summary judgment before any discovery. The Superior Court denied the donor's request for discovery and granted the Trust's motion. The Court accepted each of our arguments, ordered the donor to pay reasonable attorneys' fees as required by the contract. The donor vigorously objected to the reasonableness of our fees, which lead to multiple submissions by both sides. In the end, the Court found that our fees were reasonable -- in terms of both the number of hours worked and the hourly rates -- and the Court ordered the donor to pay the fees in their entirety. As part of the Final Judgment, the Judge also required the donor to submit a bond in an amount sufficient to cover not only those fees, but also the expected fees on appeal. And to complete the victory for our team on all issues, the Judge denied the donor's motion to stay pending appeal the injunctive portion of the Final Judgment requiring the donor to return the property to its original appearance at the time of the donation. Faced with this decision, the donor finally relented, repainted her house, and paid our attorneys' fees in full.

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