Tump's WeChat ban cost United States $900k in legal fees to plaintiffs

Biden Admin's lawyers settled with the U.S. WeChat Users Alliance.

Back in August 2020, then-President Donald Trump’s executive order to ban WeChat in the United States made global headlines.

A group of WeChat users called the U.S. WeChat Users Alliance, in September 2020, filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration to invalidate the WeChat ban.

On June 9, 2021, President Joe Biden withdrew a series of Trump-era executive orders that sought to ban WeChat and TikTok, and ordered a Commerce Department review of security concerns posed by those apps and others.

At the time, Michael Bien, the lead lawyer for the U.S. WeChat Users Alliance, praised the Biden administration for revoking the "wrong-headed ban on WeChat that ... would have led to the unprecedented shutdown of a major platform for communications relied on by millions of people in the United States."

This week, from the U.S. WeChat Users Alliance and Bien respectively, your Pekingnologist obtained a fee settlement agreement and release reached between the Alliance and, since power changed hands in January, the Biden administration.

According to the agreement, the Defendants (Joseph R. Biden, Jr., in his official capacity as President of the United States, and Gina Raimondo, in her official capacity as United States Secretary of Commerce) shall pay the U.S. WeChat Users Alliance "a lump sum of $900,000.00 for attorneys’ fees, costs, and other litigation expenses incurred in this matter."

In a recent blog post, the U.S. WeChat Users Alliance said


根据美国的《平等公义通路法》( Equal Access to Justice Act),如果政府没有正当充分的理由侵害普通老百姓的权利并在司法程序中败诉,法院可以判政府补偿对方的律师费。我方律师团引用这部法律,与司法部进行了多轮的补偿和解谈判。我方律师团严正指出,政府补偿微信案件的律师费是对美国政府的应有惩戒;只有让公权力为自己的错误行为付出代价,才能对美国政府起到以儆效尤的效果。


After President Biden signed a presidential order revoking the WeChat ban on June 9, the plaintiffs' legal team in the WeChat case argued that the government was at fault: not to mention the political and public opinion misdirection, but the legal position itself was totally unjustified - the free use of WeChat users should never have been banned in the first place - not to mention the massive waste of human, material, time, and taxpayer tax dollars in the process.

Under the U.S. Equal Access to Justice Act, if the government violates the rights of ordinary people without good cause and loses in a judicial proceeding (absent showing its position to be substantially justified), the court may authorizes the award of attorney fees and other expenses. Our legal team used this law to negotiate several rounds of compensation settlements with the Department of Justice. Our legal team pointed out that the government's compensation for attorney's fees in the WeChat case is a proper punishment for the U.S. government; only by making it pay for its wrongdoings can it serve as an example to the U.S. government.

After months of negotiation, the U.S. WeChat Users Alliance and the U.S. Department of Justice just reached an agreement last week in which the U.S. government agreed to reimburse the attorney's fees incurred by the WeChat Users Alliance for a total amount of $900,000.

The blog post added, prior to this settlement

在刚开始的时候美微联会账户里只有两、三万美元,五位发起人律师辛勤奔走,竭尽所能游说各方,努力争取到最好的律师为大家获得最好的结果。整个微信维权案件中,前后共有五家律所的十多位律师共同参与。若以这些律师的正常收费标准计,律师费总额超过了250万美元。最终除了旧金山的RBGG 律师事务所以折扣后的律师费率收取较低律师费之外,其余的四家律师事务所全部是以义工的方式参与。

At the beginning of the case, there was only $20,000 to $30,000 in the account . The five founding members of the alliance, who are attorneys, worked diligently and did their best to lobby all parties and try to get the best lawyers to get the best result for everyone.

The entire WeChat case went on to involve more than a dozen lawyers from five law firms. Based on these lawyers' normal fees, the total amount of attorneys' fees would exceed $2.5 million. In the end, four law firms participated on a pro bono basis, and Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld LLP in San Francisco charged lower fees at a discounted rate.

The WeChat case is undoubtedly a precedent created by more than 18,000 of our Chinese grassroots supporters working together in a short period of time to defend their rights with legal weapons. Although it ended with a victory, it is by no means the end of the Chinese community's collective voice and defense of their rights. On the contrary, it is precisely the starting point where we need to unite closely and learn to use the law to defend our rights.