United States District Court, D. Columbia.
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
For REGINA COATES, Plaintiff: Elizabeth T. Jester, JESTER & WILLIAMS, Great Falls, VA.
For DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Defendant: Tasha Monique Hardy, LEAD ATTORNEY, OFFICE OF ATTORNEY GENERAL/DC, Washington, DC.
ROSEMARY M. COLLYER, United States District Judge.
After prevailing in an administrative action under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act on behalf of her child, Regina Coates sues the District of Columbia for attorney fees and costs. The parties filed cross motions for summary judgment. As a prevailing party, Ms. Coates is entitled to reasonable attorney fees and costs. Having considered the record closely, the Court will reduce the attorney's hourly rate, strike attorney hours spent on an unsuccessful pre-hearing motion, and reduce charges for travel time, facsimiles, and copying.
Regina Coates is the parent of a minor child, R.C. As provided for by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. § 1400, et seq., she pursued a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE), 20 U.S.C. § 1412(a)(1)(A), for R.C. after the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) failed to agree that R.C. had special needs. Ms. Coates filed an administrative due process complaint against DCPS on December 6, 2013. Following a prehearing conference, the hearing officer identified the following four issues for hearing:
1. Should DCPS have classified the Student as eligible for special education services as a Student with an emotional disturbance from January, 2013 through present, and provided the Student with an appropriate IEP and educational placement? If so[,] did DCPS deny the Student FAPE?
2. In connection to the IEP meetings for July 24, 2013 and October 1, 2013, did DCPS fail to include appropriate and required team members? If so, did DCPS deny the Student a FAPE?
3. In connection to the IEP meetings for July 24, 2013 and October 1, 2013, did DCPS fail to conduct a Functional Behavior Assessment and Vocational Assessment?
4. In connection to the IEP meetings for July 24, 2013 and October 1, 2013, did DCPS fail to meaningfully
consider the 4 independent evaluations previously obtained by the Petitioner?
Pl. Mot., Ex. 1, Hearing Officer Determination (HOD) [Dkt. 7-5] at 2-3. Ms. Coates filed a pre-hearing motion for a classroom observation of R.C. by her expert, but it was denied by the hearing officer. The due process hearing was held on February 6, 2014. In an HOD dated February 19, 2014, the hearing officer concluded that R.C. must be " deemed eligible for services as a Student with an emotional disturbance" and found that the District had " denied [R.C.] a FAPE by the IEP team's decision to find the Student ineligible [for special education services] at the July, 2013 and October, 2013 meetings." Id. at 15.
The hearing officer awarded six months of remedial reading tutoring for two hours per week, at least five hours per week of specialized instruction within general education, a Functional Behavioral Assessment, one hour per week of speech and language therapy, one hour per week of occupational therapy and two hours per week of counseling. Id. at 17-19. The hearing officer denied requests for a full time therapeutic setting, mentoring, wraparound services, a vocational assessment, and extended school year services. Id. at 17-20.
Under 20 U.S.C. § 1415(i)(3)(B), a court may award attorney fees to a parent who prevails in an IDEA proceeding. Ms. Coates submitted a petition for attorney fees and costs to the District in the amount of $48,055.28. Pl. Mot. for Summ. J. [Dkt. 7-1] (Pl. Mot.), Ex. 2 [Dkt. 7-6] (Invoice). DCPS objected to aspects of its recorded fees and costs and this lawsuit followed.
II. LEGAL STANDARD
A. Summary Judgment
Under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, summary judgment shall be granted " if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); accord Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). Moreover, summary judgment is properly granted against a party who " after adequate time for discovery and upon motion . . . fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which ...