United States District Court, D. Columbia.
For SHAMEA BRIGGS, Plaintiff: Elizabeth T. Jester, JESTER & WILLIAMS, Great Falls, VA.
For DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Defendant: Laura George, LEAD ATTORNEY, OFFICE OF ATTORNEY GENERAL/DC, Washington, DC.
Re Document No.: 5
RUDOLPH CONTRERAS, United States District Judge.
Granting In Part And Denying In Part The Plaintiff's Motion For Summary Judgment
This matter comes before the Court on the Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff Shamea Briggs is the parent of J.K., a child protected by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (" IDEA" ), 20 U.S.C. § § 1400 et seq. Plaintiff initiated this action to request an award for attorney's fees and costs incurred while prosecuting administrative claims under the IDEA. The Defendant, the District of Columbia, primarily disputes the reasonableness of Plaintiff's hourly requested rate. The Court finds that Plaintiff's request is, for the most part, reasonable. Accordingly, the Court grants in part and denies in part Plaintiff's motion.
II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND
On November 30, 2012, Plaintiff filed an administrative due process complaint against the District of Columbia Public Schools system (" DCPS" ) on behalf of student J.K. pursuant to the IDEA. See Def.'s Opp'n to Pl.'s Mot. for Fees (" Def.'s Opp'n" ), ECF No. 6 at 1. That Act requires DCPS to provide children in the District who have disabilities with all the rights that the IDEA affords. See Compl., ECF No. 1 at 2. Specifically at issue here is the requirement that DCPS provide a free and appropriate education (" FAPE" ) to each child resident in the District of Columbia regardless of the child's particular disability. See Pl.'s Mem. P. & A. Supp. Summ. J., ECF No. 5-2, at 3.
In J.K.'s case, Plaintiff contended that DCPS violated the IDEA on two grounds: (1) the DCPS committed procedural violations of the IDEA by failing to evaluate J.K. when Plaintiff requested evaluations; and, (2) the DCPS failed to identify and timely evaluate J.K. based upon a possible suspected disability. See Hr'g Officer's Decision (" HOD" ), ECF No. 5-1 at 1. Plaintiff requested Psychological, Speech/Language, Occupational Therapy, and Psychiatric evaluations as well as a Functional Behavior Assessment. Id. at 4. Additionally, Plaintiff sought an eligibility meeting and compensatory education. Id. at 4. The following exhibits were admitted: Hearing Officer's Exhibits A through G; Plaintiff's Exhibits 1 through 3; and Defendant's Exhibits 1 through 7. Id. at 3.
After a three hour administrative hearing, the Hearing Officer issued a written decision that found that Plaintiff was entitled to funding for Psychological, Speech/Language, and Occupational Therapy evaluations, in addition to funding for a Functional Behavior assessment. See Def.'s Opp'n at 4. Plaintiff's request for a Psychiatric evaluation was denied. Id. Accordingly, all relief that the Hearing Officer awarded to Plaintiff had previously been offered to Plaintiff except for the Functional Behavior assessment. Id.
Elizabeth Jester, Esq., represented Plaintiff throughout the administrative process. On September 19, 2013, Jester invoiced DCPS for $19,573.79. She arrived at this total by applying billing rates of $505.00 per hour for work done in 2012, $510.00 per hour for work completed in 2013, and $145.00 per hour for paralegal services performed by Ms. Meryl Williams. See Compl. ¶ 5. The parties have filed cross-motions for summary judgment regarding the ...