United States District Court, District of Columbia
JUDIE MCNEIL, Parent and next friend of J.M., a minor Plaintiffs,
OPTIONS PUBLIC CHARTER SCHOOL, Defendant.
DEBORAH A. ROBINSON, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Judie McNeil initially brought this action, in her own right
and on behalf of her minor child, J.M.
(“Plaintiffs”), to recover $19, 293.57 in
attorneys' fees and costs that Plaintiffs incurred in
connection with administrative proceeding conducted pursuant
to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
(“IDEA”), 20 U.S.C. §1400, et seq.
See Complaint for Declaratory Judgment, Injunctive
and Other Relief (Document No. 1).
March 1, 2013, the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge
recommended that the Court grant in part and deny in part
Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment. See
Report and Recommendation (Document No. 16); McNeil v.
Options Pub. Charter Sch., No. 12-0529, 2012 WL 791199,
at * 4 (D.D.C. Mar. 1, 2013). The undersigned recommended a
reduction of the number of hours for which Plaintiffs sought
fees, to reflect their limited success in the underlying
administrative proceeding. McNeil, 2013 WL 791199,
at *7. On March 25, 2013, the Court (Sullivan,
J.), sua sponte, stayed proceedings in this case
pending further order of the Court. See 03/25/2013
Minute Order. On May 23, 2014, the Court granted
Plaintiffs' unopposed motion to lift the stay, adopted
the Report and Recommendation filed by the undersigned, and
awarded Plaintiff $11.439.51 in attorneys' fees.
See 05/23/2014 Minute Order.
27, 2014, Defendant filed Defendant's Motion to Correct
the Court's May 23, 2014 Minute Order. See
Motion to Correct (Document No. 21) at 1. Defendant asserted
that the Court made a mistake in its calculation of
attorneys' fees by awarding Plaintiffs $11, 439.51
instead of $1, 914.54. Id. at 3; see also
Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of Motion to
Correct the Court's May 23, 2014 Minute Order at 2-3. On
June 27, 2014, the Court (Sullivan, J.), granted
Defendant's motion and amended the Order to reflect an
award of fees in the amount of $1, 914.54. See
07/03/2014 Minute Order.
now seek to recover fees and costs incurred in that fee
litigation. Plaintiffs' Motion for Attorneys' Fees
(“Plaintiffs' Motion”) (Document No. 19).
Upon consideration of the motion, the memoranda in support
thereof and the opposition thereto, the exhibits offered by
the parties, and the entire record herein, the undersigned
will grant in part and deny in part Plaintiffs' motion.
OF THE PARTIES
submit that they are prevailing parties and thus are eligible
for an additional award of fees for the time spent on
obtaining attorneys' fees. Memorandum of Points and
Authorities Submitted in Support of the Plaintiffs'
Motion for Attorneys' Fees (“Plaintiffs'
Memorandum”) (Document No. 19) at 4-5. Plaintiffs
assert that the hours expended in the fees litigation are
reasonable. See id. at 5-7. Plaintiffs further
contend that they have fully documented their attorneys'
fees by attaching a detailed itemization of tasks performed
and hours expended on this case; an affidavit from James E.
Brown describing the billing practices and specialization of
the firm and also the qualifications of Ms. Neloms, who
completed work on this case before leaving the firm in 2012;
and an affidavit from Robert Jones detailing his
qualifications, skill, and experience. See
Plaintiffs' Memorandum at 5; see also
Plaintiffs' Invoice; Exhibit 2 (“Jones
Affidavit”) (Document No. 19-2) at 5-7; Exhibit 3
(“Brown Affidavit”) (Document No. 19-2) at 9-10.
assert that the hourly rates requested are reasonable and
reflect the applicable hourly rate for attorneys with the
demonstrated skills, experience, and reputation of
Plaintiffs' attorneys. See Plaintiffs'
Memorandum at 7-9. Furthermore, Plaintiffs have
“voluntarily chosen to limit their fee request to
¾ of the Laffey matrix rate.”
Id. at 8. Accordingly, Plaintiffs seek a total of
$6, 690.07, which includes $6, 540.07 in attorneys' fees
at the rates of $333.75 per hour for work performed by
Roxanne Neloms and $217.50 per hour for work performed by
Robert W. Jones. See Plaintiffs' Memorandum at
6; see also Exhibit 1 (“Plaintiffs'
Invoice”) (Document No. 19-2) at 2-3.
in its opposition, does not contest Plaintiffs'
entitlement to fees, counsel's billing rates, or specific
time entries. See generally Defendant's
Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Opposition to
Plaintiff[s]' Motion for Attorneys' Fees
(“Defendant's Memorandum”) (Document No. 22)
at 1-2. Rather, Defendant contends that Plaintiffs' fee
request is unreasonable with respect to the “degree of
success obtained through this litigation.” Id.
Accordingly, Defendant submits that the Court should award
Plaintiffs no more than $669.00 in fees “given the
extremely limited success obtained though this
litigation.” Id. at 2.
reply, Plaintiffs maintain that in the instant case,
“there were effectively two issues presented before the
Court: whether the Plaintiffs were entitled to an award of
attorneys' fees, and if so what amount of fees.”
Plaintiffs' Reply to the Defendant's Opposition to
the Plaintiff's Motion for Attorneys' Fees
(“Plaintiffs' Reply”) at 3. Thus, Plaintiffs
contend that “there are no separate issues on which the
Plaintiffs failed to prevail which are unrelated to the
issues on which they prevailed.” Id. With
respect to the number of hours claimed, Plaintiffs contend
that the hours were reasonably expended in demonstrating that
they prevailed in the underlying fee litigation and are
entitled to an award of attorneys' fees. See id.
As an example, Plaintiffs contend that as part of the initial
fee litigation, the parties presented oral arguments on the
motion for summary judgment before the undersigned. See
id.; 11/05/2013 Minute Entry. Plaintiff further argues
that the hours expended were necessary to secure any relief
for Plaintiffs because Defendant had
“strenuously” challenged Plaintiffs'
prevailing party status and entitlement to any award of fees.
See id. at 4. Finally, Plaintiff maintains that
because Defendant “presented no arguments contesting
the rate at which fees are sought or the specific time
entries[, ]” the Court should find that Defendant has
conceded those issues. Id. at 4-5.
actions for attorney's fees that are brought pursuant to
the IDEA, “the court, in its discretion, may award
reasonable attorneys' fees as part of the costs” to
the prevailing party. 20 U.S.C. § 1415(i)(3)(B)(i).
“Parties who prevail at the administrative level can
also recover fees-on-fees, as our general rule is that the
court may award additional fees for ‘time reasonably
devoted to obtaining attorney's fees.'”
Kaseman v. District of Columbia, 444 F.3d 637, 640
(D.C. Cir. 2006) (quoting Envtl. Def. Fund v. EPA,
672 F.2d 42, 62 (D.C. Cir. 1982)). In evaluating such a
request, the Court must first determine “whether the
party seeking attorney's fees is the prevailing party,
” and if so, must then evaluate whether the requested
fees are reasonable. Wood v. District of Columbia,
72 F.Supp.3d 13, 18 (D.D.C. 2014) (citing Staton v.
District of Columbia, No. 13-773, 2014 WL 2700894, at *3
(D.D.C. June 11, 2014), adopted by, 2014 WL 2959017;
Douglas v. District of Columbia, 67 F.Supp.3d 36, 40
Circuit recently observed, “[t]he IDEA provides no
further guidance for determining an appropriate fee
award.” Eley v. District of Columbia, 793 F.3d
97, 100 (D.C. Cir. 2015). Thus, the common mechanism for the
determination of a reasonable award is generally “the
number of hours reasonably expended” multiplied by a
reasonable hourly rate. Wood, 72 F.Supp.3d at 18
(citing Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433
(1983)). The party requesting fees bears the burden of
demonstrating the reasonableness of the hours expended, and
“may satisfy this burden by submitting an invoice that
is sufficiently detailed to permit the District Court to make
an independent determination whether or not the hours claimed
are justified.” Id. (citing Hensley,
461 U.S. at 433).
party requesting fees “also bears the burden of
establishing the reasonableness of the hourly rate sought,
” and in doing so, “must submit evidence on at
least three fronts: the attorneys' billing practices; the
attorneys' skill, experience, and reputation; and the
prevailing market rates in the relevant community.”
Wood, 72 F.Supp.3d at 18-19 (internal quotation
marks omitted) (citing In re North, 59 F.3d 184, 189
(D.C. Cir. 1995)). If the party requesting fees satisfies its
burden, “there is a presumption that the number of
hours billed and the hourly rates are ...