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Gray v. District of Columbia

March 6, 2007

BARBARA GRAY ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ricardo M. Urbina United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

DENYING THE PLAINTIFFS'MOTION FOR A PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION

Document No. 8

I. INTRODUCTION

The plaintiffs, minor children and their parents, guardians and court-appointed educational advocates, bring this action to collect attorneys' fees and other costs pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA"),20 U.S.C. §§ 1400 et seq.,and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("§ 1983"). The plaintiffs seek to recover attorneys' fees and costs in excess of the $4,000 District of Columbia Appropriations Act fee cap. Pending before the court is the plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction. The plaintiffs request that the court enjoin the defendant from spending $1 million in budgetary funds until the court resolves the case. The court denies the plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction because the plaintiffs fail to demonstrate that they are likely to succeed on the merits, that they will suffer irreparable harm, or that a preliminary injunction furthers the public interest.

II. BACKGROUND

A. Factual Background

The plaintiffs are 64*fn1 minor children and their parents, guardians and court-appointed educational advocates. Eleven of the 64 children plaintiffs are wards of the District of Columbia. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 24, 32, 76, 96, 104, 136, 148, 200, 204, 212, 264. These eleven children are represented by court-appointed educational advocates William Houston and Ellen Douglas Dalton.*fn2 Id. According to the caption in the complaint, the court-appointed advocates bring the instant suit as next friends.

All of the plaintiffs filed requests for due process hearings*fn3 to challenge actions taken by the District of Columbia Public Schools ("DCPS"). Am. Compl. ¶¶ 4, 8, 12, 16, 20, 24,28, 32, 36, 40, 44, 48, 52, 56, 60, 64, 68, 73, 76, 80, 84, 88, 92, 96, 100, 104, 108, 112, 116, 120, 124, 128, 132, 136, 140, 144, 148, 152, 156, 160, 164, 168, 172, 176, 180, 184, 188, 192, 196, 200, 204, 208, 212, 216, 220, 224, 228, 232, 236, 240, 244, 248, 252, 256, 260, 264, 268, 272, 276, 280. The plaintiffs allege that they were prevailing parties against DCPS in the due process hearings. Id. As such, they submitted petitions for attorneys' fees to DCPS. Id. ¶¶ 5, 9, 13, 17, 21, 25, 29, 33, 37, 41, 45, 49, 53, 57, 61, 65, 69, 74, 77, 81, 85, 89, 93, 97, 101, 105, 109, 113, 117, 121, 125, 129, 133, 137, 141, 145, 149, 153, 157, 161, 165, 169, 173, 177, 181, 185, 189, 193, 197, 201, 205, 209, 213, 217, 221, 225, 229, 233, 237, 241, 245, 249, 253, 257, 261, 265, 269, 273, 277, 281. The attorneys' fees petitions requested reimbursement of fees and costs in excess of $4,000. Id.

Section 327 of the District of Columbia Appropriations Act of 2005 caps the District of Columbia's payment of IDEA attorneys' fees at $4,000 per action. Pub. L. No. 108-335, 118 Stat. 1322 (2004). The plaintiffs bring the instant suit to recover attorneys' fees in excess of the $4,000 statutory cap.*fn4 Id., Prayer for Relief. In total, the plaintiffs seek $199,198.74 in allegedly unpaid attorneys' fees and costs. Id. The plaintiffs bring their claims pursuant to the IDEA and § 1983. Id. ¶ 1. The amended complaint also sets forth some constitutional claims. Prayer for Relief ¶¶ A, C, and D.

B. Procedural Background

The plaintiffs filed an amended two-count complaint on February 23, 2006. The first count of the amended complaint states that "an incongruity continues to exist between Section 327 of the District of Columbia Appropriations Act of 2005 [capping attorneys' fees at $4,000] and the provision of the IDEA that permits [c]courts to award attorney's fees" and that "[c]courts cannot leave it up to Congress to resolve [the incongruity]." Am. Compl. ¶ 287. The second count of the amended complaint alleges that the attorneys' fees "cap effectively limits the access of the District of Columbia's poor families to quality legal representation, which impairs their due process protections under the IDEA." Id. ¶ 288. On March 10, 2006, the plaintiffs filed a motion for a preliminary injunction. The court now turns to the plaintiffs' motion.

III. ANALYSIS

A. Legal Standard for ...


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