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Collins v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, D. Columbia

November 30, 2015

TRENITA COLLINS, Plaintiff,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Defendant

          For Trenita Collins, AS PARENT/GUARDIAN OF D.C., Plaintiff: Steve Nabors, MORAN & ASSOCIATES, Washington, DC USA; Carolyn W. Houck, LAW OFFICE OF CAROLYN HOUCK, St. Michaels, MD USA.

         For District of Columbia, Defendant: Aaron Josiah Finkhousen, LEAD ATTORNEY, OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Washington, DC USA.

         MEMORANDUM OPINION ADOPTING UNCONTESTED REPORT & RECOMMENDATION OF MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         KETANJI BROWN JACKSON, United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Trenita Collins (" Plaintiff" ) is the mother of " D.C." --a minor child who is a student with a disability in the District of Columbia Public Schools System (" DCPS" ). In this lawsuit, Plaintiff seeks to recover from defendant District of Columbia (" Defendant" ) attorneys' fees and costs that she incurred in connection with an administrative due process proceeding in which she alleged that DCPS failed to provide D.C. with a free appropriate public education (" FAPE" ) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (" IDEA" ). The Administrative Hearing Officer decided in Plaintiff's favor on one of the five grounds that she advanced; in the instant action, Plaintiff seeks a judgment declaring that she was the prevailing party in the administrative proceeding and awarding her $59,361 in attorneys' fees and costs.

         On January 30, 2015, this Court referred this matter to a Magistrate Judge for full case management. On May 15, 2015, Plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment (Pl.'s Motion for Summ. J., ECF No. 11), arguing that she prevailed at the administrative level and seeking attorneys' fees and costs in the amount of $59,361 under the IDEA. ( Id. at 3-7.) On June 12, 2015, Defendant filed a cross-motion for summary judgment (Def.'s Opp'n to Pl.'s Mot. for Summ. J. & Cross-Mot. for Summ. J., ECF No. 13) in which it conceded that Plaintiff was a prevailing party with respect to one of her claims, but asserted that this Court should reduce the fee award because (1) counsel's hourly rate is unreasonable, with respect to both the administrative proceeding and the instant proceeding, and (2) Plaintiff only partially prevailed at the administrative level. ( Id. at 2, 4-10.)

         Before this Court at present is the Report and Recommendation that the assigned Magistrate Judge, Alan Kay, has filed regarding the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment. ( See ECF No. 20, attached hereto as Appendix A.) The Report and Recommendation reflects Magistrate Judge Kay's opinion that the Court should grant in part and deny on part each party's motion. ( Id. at 17.) Specifically, Magistrate Judge Kay finds that counsel billed a reasonable number of hours overall ( id. at 11), but recommends that this Court discount counsel's fees for the administrative proceeding by 35% to reflect Plaintiff's status as a partially prevailing party ( id. at 10-11), and that counsel's reimbursable hourly rate should be set at " 75% of the 2014-2015 Laffey Matrix rates with regard to counsel's work on the administrative proceeding and [] at 50% of those Laffey Matrix rates with regard to the 4.8 hours counsel billed for [] preparation of the fee petition and review of the billing records" ( id. at 15).[1]

         The Report and Recommendation also advises the parties that either party may file written objections to the Report and Recommendation, which must include the portions of the findings and recommendations to which each objection is made and the basis for each such objection. ( Id. at 18.) The Report and Recommendation further advises the parties that failure to file timely objections may result in waiver of further review of the matters addressed in the Report and Recommendation. ( Id. ) Under this Court's local rules, any party who objects to a Report and Recommendation must file a written objection with the Clerk of the Court within 14 days of the party's receipt of the Report and Recommendation. LCvR 72.3(b). As of this date--over a month after the Report and Recommendation was issued--no objections have been filed.

         This Court has reviewed Magistrate Judge Kay's report and agrees with its careful and thorough analysis and conclusions. Thus, the Court will ADOPT the Report and Recommendation in its entirety. Accordingly, the Court will GRANT IN PART and DENY IN PART Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment and GRANT IN PART and DENY IN PART Defendant's Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment, and will award Plaintiff attorneys' fees in the amount of $28,683.30 and costs in the amount of $787.00.

         A separate Order accompanies this Memorandum Opinion.

         Appendix A

         TRENITA COLLINS, as Parent/Guardian of D.C., Plaintiff, v. DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, Defendant.

         Civil Action No. 15-136 (KBJ/AK)

         UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE ...


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