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City awarded $70K in legal fees in Festival at Sandpoint gun lawsuit

According to court documents, the city had originally claimed over $94,000 in attorney fees.

SANDPOINT, Idaho — A judge awarded the City of Sandpoint $70,000 to pay for attorney fees after winning a lawsuit brought against them by Bonner County by Bonner County and the county sheriff’s office.

Bonner County and the county sheriff’s office filed the lawsuit after the city decided to ban firearms at the Festival at Sandpoint.

According to court documents filed Wednesday, the city had originally claimed over $94,000 in attorney fees but the county objected “on the theory that the city was not a prevailing party, that the court’s granting judgement for the city effectively provided the sheriff of Bonner County with the guidance he sought” by bringing the lawsuit.

Judge Lansing Haynes agreed with the county’s claim in part. He wrote that the argument that the city was not the prevailing party “is without merit in fact or law.”

However, Judge Haynes said there are 12 factors the trial court must consider when awarding attorney’s fees. The judge decided to reduce the amount awarded based on the time and labor required, according to court documents.

Judge Haynes ruled in favor of the city in early September.

In his decision he wrote, “Plaintiff lacks standing to bring this matter before the court, this Court will not engage in the analysis of Whether this issue has become moot.”

The lawsuit was filed in September 2019. It cited Idaho law which prohibits cities and municipalities from restricting gun possession on public property.

The annual Festival at Sandpoint event traditionally takes place at War Memorial Field, which is owned by the city.

Although festival organizers have traditionally not allowed guns into War Memorial Field, both city officials and Bonner County Sheriff Daryl Wheeler said the matter gained attention after festival organizers began increasing security measures at the event and notifying attendees of the policy.

The 18-page lawsuit accused the city of Sandpoint of violating state law and creating a "chilling effect, with regard to the right to exercise Idaho rights."