The European Union: Politics and Policies (2017 6 edn). pp 159 Bottom - 160 Top.

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To wit, how did Costa find a lawyer for such a picayune quantum? I'm cynical and reckon that only a few are open-handed; most aren't. I can conceive only two reasons:

  1. Was Costa simply lucky to have chanced on a big-hearted lawyer?

  2. Another motive may be the lawyer's longing to argue at the CJEU?

  • 1
    The lawyer may want to have their name associated with a landmark case or make a political point. They (probably) wouldn't take a case that is of no value to them, but there are other types of value than monetary.
    – Brian R
    Apr 19, 2019 at 14:40

2 Answers 2

  1. The amount at stake (e.g. $1.50) does not need to relate to the amount the lawyer gets paid. One could sue for $1.00 for the sake of proving they are right, pay $x,000 in legal fees, win and feel rewarded.
  2. Lawyers can have motives to perform services other than financial gain, such as:

    — practice

    — publicity

    — sympathy to the party they represent

    — sharing the same views/principles as the party they represent and achieving personal pride by winning the case.

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    There are plenty of cases where the plaintiff is only seeking a declaratory judgement and is not seeking any damages at all. I'm sure there are examples of lawyers taking cases like that pro bono as well. Apr 19, 2019 at 19:04

For the same reason that lawyers took the case Kouichi Taniguchi v. Kan Pacific Saipan, Ltd, 566 U.S. 560 (2012), a $5,257.20 bill of costs dispute, to the U.S. Supreme Court. (A discussion of the lawyer's motives in that case can be found here.)

It was what is called a "test case", where the stakes in the particular dispute are low, but the legal principle to be resolved has broad application to many disputes large and small.

This kind of litigation behavior (i.e. spending far more money litigating a case than the individual dispute merits) is sometimes called "strategic litigation" behavior. Sometimes that term is referred to in the sense of a pattern of litigation designed to promote human rights (synonymous with "impact litigation"). But, the term is also used more broadly, to refer to any lawsuit brought primarily to set a precedent rather than due to the stakes in the particular dispute at hand.

"Tactical litigation", in contrast, is used to refer to the practice of pursuing a lawsuit because it will delay some action from being taken or make it costly to do so, in which the litigant doesn't care about the outcome on the merits, which is in some ways the opposite of "strategic litigation" in which the outcome on the merits has greatly exaggerated importance relative to the dispute in question.

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