Once plaintiffs have met the burden described above, there is a
presumption that the hourly rate is reasonable, and the burden
shifts to the defendants to rebut plaintiffs' showing of the
reasonableness of that rate. "[I]n the normal case the Government
must either accede to the applicant's requested rate or provide
specific contrary evidence tending to show that a lower rate
would be appropriate." Covington v. District of Columbia, 57
F.3d at 1109-10 (quoting National Assn. of Concerned Veterans v.
Secretary of Defense, 675 F.2d 1319, 1326 (D.C.Cir. 1982))
Applying that framework to this case, the Court concludes from
the sworn declaration of Charles Moran that plaintiffs have
established the reasonableness of the rates billed.*fn4 First,
plaintiffs have stated that the hourly rates used are the same as
the rates that they normally bill and at which the defendants
ordinarily reimburse them for work performed to prevail at the
administrative due process level. See Pls' Motion at 13.
Second, all of the rates requested are at or below the rate
prescribed by the United States Attorney's Office updated
Laffey matrix. The hourly rates charged by counsel for
plaintiffs therefore are reasonable.
The Court next must assess the reasonableness of the number of
hours expended. It appears to the Court that some of the hours
billed by plaintiffs' counsel may be excessive. See Hensley v.
Eckerhart, 461 U.S. at 434, 103 S.Ct. 1933 ("The district court
should exclude from [the] initial fee calculation hours that were
not `reasonably expended'"). Much of the billing, especially for
Mr. Moran, plaintiffs' primary counsel, appears to have been done
in quarter hour increments.*fn5 Counsel appears to have billed
defendants a full quarter hour for certain de minimis tasks,
and given the hourly rate of plaintiffs' primary counsel, the
quarter hours quickly add up to a very sizeable bill. On December
30, 1998, for instance, plaintiffs' counsel billed $393.75 for
phone calls and letters to determine plaintiffs' position with
respect to a motion for an extension of time that the defendants
were filing. See Pls' Motion, Exh. C1 at 10. On January 5,
1999, plaintiffs' counsel billed $56.25 to review a scheduling
order issued by the Court. See id. at 11. Similarly,
plaintiffs' counsel has billed $56.25 for a telephone call with
the Special Master to set up a time and a place for a meeting.
Id. at 32. Counsel clearly would have billed substantially less
had he kept his time in tenth-hour segments. The defendants
therefore are invited to submit a response addressing
specifically the reasonableness of the hours expended.
Accordingly, it is hereby
ORDERED that defendants' motions for extension of time filed
June 4, 1999 and June 16, 1999 are DENIED; it is
FURTHER ORDERED that by July 21, 1999, plaintiffs shall file
supplemental attachments to the motion for attorneys' fees
separating out the time spent on each plaintiff and eliminating
any de minimis or excessive hours; it is
FURTHER ORDERED that by July 21, 1999, plaintiffs shall file a
status report with respect to what relief, if any, has been
provided to Mirian Batista and Teon Lindsay; it is
FURTHER ORDERED that by July 30, 1999, defendants may file a
response to plaintiffs' motion with respect only to the
reasonableness of the hours expended.