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BAILEY v. DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA


December 13, 1993

LAWANDA LORRAINE BAILEY, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, et al., Defendants.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: LAMBERTH

MEMORANDUM OPINION

 This case comes before this court on plaintiffs' motion for an award of attorney's fees under the Individuals with Disabilities Act ("IDEA"), 20 U.S.C. § 1415(e)(4)(B). That statute provides that

 

in any action or proceeding brought under this subsection, the court, in its discretion, may award reasonable attorneys' fees as part of the costs to the parents or guardian of a handicapped child or youth who is the prevailing party.

 Having considered the pleadings and evidence of both parties, this court shall grant plaintiffs' fee request.

 I. BACKGROUND

 The case underlying this attorney's fee litigation was brought on behalf of fourteen minor plaintiffs by their parents and guardians, claiming that the District of Columbia Public Schools ("DCPS") had failed to provide the children with appropriate special education and related services in violation of IDEA, 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et seq. In administrative due process hearings, plaintiffs were found to be entitled to special education and related services. After winning on the merits of their case, plaintiffs filed this action for attorney's fees, expert witness fees, and costs. Defendants conceded that plaintiffs were prevailing parties for the purposes of § 1415(e)(4)(B) and were entitled to an award of reasonable attorney's fees and costs under that statute.

 On April 23, 1993, this court granted plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment, finding defendants liable for reasonable attorney's fees but postponing the determination of the amount of such an award. Pursuant to court order, plaintiffs then filed a statement of the amount of attorney's fees, expert witness fees, costs and expenses incurred. Defendants filed a brief in opposition to that statement, and plaintiffs replied.

 On November 8, 1993, finding the parties' submissions inadequate to resolve the attorney's fee and cost issues, this court ordered plaintiffs to submit evidence of the prevailing market rates for their counsel's services and to submit a well-documented list of plaintiffs' expert's expenses. By the same order, this court required defendants to disclose the hourly rate at which they have historically settled their attorney's fee disputes with lawyers like plaintiffs' counsel, to set forth their position on awards of interest against the District of Columbia, and to brief the issue of whether expert fees and costs may be awarded under § 1415(e)(4)(B).

 Lastly, the order required defendants to state the uncontested amount of fees and costs that they conceded they owed to plaintiffs. By order of November 26, 1993, this court ordered defendants to pay that amount -- $ 87,388.29 -- to plaintiffs.

 Nevertheless, the interim award left much unresolved. The parties still dispute the hourly rate to which plaintiffs' counsel is entitled, the number of hours of his time for which he is due compensation, the amount of costs that are recoverable, and the method of calculating pre-judgment interest. This court will address each issue in turn.

 II. REASONABLE ATTORNEY'S FEE

 A. Reasonable Hourly Rate In the November order, this court determined that plaintiffs' counsel, Mr. Ronald Drake, was entitled to the prevailing market rate for his work in this case, and ordered further discovery to determine what that prevailing market rate is. The affidavits submitted by both parties have been extremely helpful. Defendants have submitted the billing rates of the eight attorneys in the District of Columbia are who practice primarily in the special education field. (Plaintiffs have submitted the billing rates for three of these lawyers, confirming defendants' data.) All of these lawyers have represented clients on special education matters before the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, and all but one of them have represented clients in administrative due process hearings against the DCPS. n1 The current billing rates of these special education lawyers range from $ 150 per hour to $ 230 per hour. A chart of the fees currently charged by special education attorneys (other than Mr. Drake) in the District of Columbia is set forth below: Name of Attorney Years of Experience Hourly Billing Rate (1993) Matthew Bogin 19 $ 230 Michael Jeffrey Eig 19 $ 230 Francisco Lopez 2 $ 165 Margaret Kohn 21 $ 175 Donna Wulkan 10 $ 200 Beth Goodman 9 $ 175 Joan Christopher 13 $ 150

19931213

© 1992-2004 VersusLaw Inc.



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