Hill ordered to pay defendants’ attorney fees

Former Congresswoman Katie Hill.

A judge has ordered former Rep. Katie Hill, D-Agua Dulce, to pay attorneys’ fees to local school board member Joe Messina and other defendants named in Hill’s lawsuit related to the 2019 publication of intimate images of Hill. 

On May 4, Judge Yolanda Orozco ordered Hill pay Messina $29,906.44, a majority of the $37,587 he sought for attorneys’ fees and costs. 

“It’s a great feeling because (I’ve) been vindicated,” Messina, a conservative talk show host and member of the William S. Hart Union High School District governing board, told The Signal. “It does boil down to politics. (I’ve) been vindicated by a liberal judge who has a liberal record on what she does, and (she) looked at the evidence and said there ain’t nothing here.” 

Messina said he plans on taking legal action against Hill, who resigned her seat in Congress in 2019. 

“Whatever legal options are available to me against her and the people around her that accused me of things that were wrong and actually caused great harm to my reputation (and) my family,” he said. 

Messina, RedState.com Managing Editor Jennifer Van Laar, and the Daily Mail, which published the intimate images, were dismissed from Hill’s case earlier this year when Orozco found that the images “were a matter of ‘public issue or public interest’” because they “spoke to Hill’s character and qualifications for her position.” 

Orozco ordered Hill to pay $83,966.41 in legal fees to Van Laar at a May 27 hearing. Van Laar will receive a large portion of the $113,134 she sought. 

Hill’s attorneys challenged Van Laar’s request, arguing her attorneys “duplicated work” and charged “unreasonable rates.” 

“As (Hill) has conceded many times during the course of this litigation, this case presents novel issues with far-reaching ramifications,” Orozco wrote in response to Hill’s opposition to Van Laar’s motion for attorney fees. “Given the novel issues involved, the court finds that the rates charged are reasonable and commensurate with or lower than rates charged by attorneys with comparable skill and expertise.” 

Orozco agreed with some of Hill’s objections, calling some hours billed by Dhillon Law Group, which represented Messina and Van Laar, “duplicative and unreasonable.” 

Harmeet Dhillon, a partner at DLG, charged $1,300 per hour, while two other attorneys with the firm charged $750 per hour and $600 per hour, respectively. 

On Tuesday, Orozco ordered that Hill pay the Daily Mail the entirety of its $104,747.75 request to cover attorneys’ fees and other costs.  

Though Hill’s attorneys challenged the Daily Mail’s request with an argument similar to their challenge to Van Laar’s request, Orozco did not find the Daily Mail’s attorneys were duplicative or unreasonable in their billing. 

The Signal had not received responses to requests for comment from Hill’s and the Daily Mail’s attorneys as of Thursday afternoon. 

Hill filed a lawsuit last December against the Daily Mail, Messina, Van Laar and her ex-husband Kenneth Heslep alleging the nonconsensual publication of Hill’s intimate images. 

A hearing in the case is scheduled June 23 at 9 a.m. for “order to show cause re: entry of default judgment,” according to the Los Angeles County Superior Court’s website. 

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