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Salmeron v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

January 9, 2015

CATALINA SALMERON, et al., [1] Plaintiffs,

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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REGGIE B. WALTON, United States District Judge.

The plaintiffs brought this suit against the Government of the District of Columbia (the " District" ) to recover attorneys' fees and costs incurred during administrative proceedings conducted under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (the " IDEA" ), 20 U.S.C. § 1400 (2012). Amended Complaint for Attorneys' Fees and Costs (" Am. Compl." ). Currently before the Court is the Plaintiffs' Motion for Default Judgment (" Pls.' Mot" ) pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55(b) against the District, and seeking an award of $505,891.86 in attorney's fees and costs under the fee-shifting provision of the IDEA. See 20 U.S.C. § 1415; see also Pls.' Mot. at 1; Memorandum in Support of Plaintiffs' Motion for Partial Dismissal (" Pls.' Mot. for Partial Dismissal" ) at 2. Upon careful consideration of the plaintiffs' submissions,[2] and for the reasons set forth below, the Court finds that the plaintiffs' motion must be granted in part, denied in part, and held in abeyance in part.


" Each [p]laintiff is a parent of a child eligible for special education or of an adult student eligible for special education." Amended Complaint (" Am. Compl." ) ¶ 3, ECF No. 3. Between June 19, 2012, and October 16, 2013, the plaintiffs " prevailed in IDEA litigation" brought against the District, and each " receiv[ed] final relief ordered in a Hearing Officer's Determination ('HOD')." Id. ¶ ¶ 10-11 (internal quotations omitted). On December 19, 2013,[3] pursuant to 20 U.S.C. § 1415(i)(3)(B), the plaintiffs filed the Amended Complaint in this case requesting that this Court " award the [p]laintiffs the reasonable fees and costs incurred in their IDEA litigation," as well as " the reasonable fees and costs of this action" and " all other relief [this] Court deems just." [4] See Am.

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Compl. at 3. The attorney's fees sought by the plaintiffs resulting from services provided in the eight administrative proceedings total $563,976.91.[5] See Pls.' Mot. at 1. The plaintiffs thereafter filed a motion for partial dismissal, requesting that the Court dismiss the claim for fees and costs associated with the representation provided to plaintiff Tykia Dickerson, and amending the total amount of requested attorneys' fees to $505,891.86. See Pls.' Mot. for Partial Dismissal at 2. On August 8, 2014, the Court granted this motion and dismissed Tykia Dickerson's claim. Order, ECF No. 13.

The plaintiffs served their Amended Complaint on " Alex Curtis, who [according to their private process server] is designated by law to accept service of process on behalf of [the] District of Columbia on [December 23, 2013]." Return of Service/Affidavit, ECF Nos. 4, 6. However, the District has failed to answer the Amended Complaint or otherwise file a defense against the plaintiffs' Amended Complaint. Thus, on March 5, 2014, upon the plaintiffs' request, the Clerk of this Court entered a default against the District. Clerk's Entry of Default, ECF No. 10. Thereafter, on April 10, 2014, the plaintiffs filed the motion now before the Court, requesting that the " Court grant them a default judgment in the amount of [$505,891.86]," Pls.' Mot. at 1, as well as " additional fees for time reasonably devoted to obtaining attorney[s'] fees," Pls.' Mem. at 7, and an " order that the District pay an additional $4,000.00 for each delay of a month or part thereof in payment," id. The defendant has not challenged the entry of the default or opposed the plaintiffs' motion for a default judgment. On August 8, 2014, in an abundance of caution, this Court entered an Order requiring that the defendant " show cause in writing on or before September 1, 2014, why the plaintiffs' motion for a default judgment should not be granted." See Order, ECF No. 13, at 3. Inexplicably, the defendant has not responded to the show cause order, and to date has not otherwise challenged the entry of a default judgment.


When a defendant fails to respond or defend against a case or otherwise engages in dilatory tactics, the plaintiff may invoke the Court's power to enter a default judgment by first seeking the entry of a default. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a); Peak v. District of Columbia,236 F.R.D. 13, 15 (D.D.C. 2006) (citing Keegel v. Key West & Caribbean Trading Co.,627 F.2d 372, 375 n.5, 200 U.S.App.D.C. 319 (D.C. Cir. 1980)); see also Jackson v. Beech,636 F.2d 831, 836, 205 U.S.App.D.C. 84 (D.C. Cir. 1980) (" The default judgment must normally be viewed as available only when the adversary process has been halted because of an essentially unresponsive party." (citation and alteration omitted)). The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide for the entry of a default when " a party against whom a judgment for affirmative relief is sought has failed to plead or otherwise defend . . . ." Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a). And Rule 55 sets forth a two-step process for a party seeking a default judgment: first, the entry of a default, followed by entry of a default ...

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