United States District Court, District of Columbia
C. LAMBERTH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
case comes before the Court on plaintiff Justina Shaw's
motion for attorneys' fees for the work spent on the
previous fee litigation, i.e., fees on fees. For the
reasons stated below, the Court will grant Ms. Shaw's
motion and will award fees and costs totaling $19, 052.95.
case was brought by Ms. Shaw against the District for
violations of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
("IDEA"). After a Hearing Officer determined that
Ms. Shaw's child, J.S., was denied a free appropriate
public education ("FAPE") as required by the IDEA,
Ms. Shaw commenced an action for attorneys' fees. On
September 28, 2016 this Court issued a Memorandum Opinion and
Order granting plaintiffs motion for attorneys' fees. ECF
Nos. 22, 23. Over the District's objections, this Court
found that Ms. Shaw was entitled to fees at a rate equal to
those set out in the Laffey matrix, as opposed to
75% of those rates, and awarded fees and costs totaling $46,
Shaw now moves again for attorneys' fees and costs
associated with the prior fee litigation, claiming that she
is entitled to "fees on fees." ECF No. 25. Ms. Shaw
states that the following hours were spent on fees
litigation: 25 hours by Charles Moran; 25.7 hours by Steve
Nabors; and 8.8 hours by Joseph Golinker. The District does
not challenge the numbers of hours reasonably expended in
this case. Ms. Shaw also notes that she received 90% of her
requested award, after this Court reduced the award by 10%,
and therefore requests that the fees awarded here be reduced
by the same rate to reflect limited success. The District
also does not contest this request.
only issue here is the rate at which Ms. Shaw's attorneys
should be compensated for the fee litigation. Ms. Shaw argues
that the Court should award these fees using the applicable
Laffey rates and that she should receive $19, 052.95
in fees and costs. The District argues that for fees on fees,
the Court should award an hourly rate equal to 50% of the
Laffey rates, and that Ms. Shaw should receive no
more than $10, 766.35.
IDEA provides that courts may award reasonable attorney's
fees to prevailing parties. 20 U.S.C. §
1415(i)(3)(B)(i). The fees must be "based on rates
prevailing in the community in which the action or proceeding
arose for the kind and quality of services furnished."
Id. § 1415(i)(3)(C). In its prior Opinion in
this case, the Court summarized the analysis for determining
whether a requested fee award is reasonable. See Shaw v.
D.C., 210 F.Supp.3d 46, 48-49 (D.D.C. 2016).
parties in IDEA cases may also recover fees on fees. See
Kaseman v. D.C., 444 F.3d 637, 640 (D.C. Cir. 2006).
Like the underlying decision regarding the appropriate rates
for fees related to IDEA litigation, Courts within this
Circuit have failed to agree on the appropriate rates for
fees on fees. Some have found that it is appropriate to award
only 50% of the Laffey rates for fees on fees.
See, e.g., McNeil v. Options Pub. Charter Sch., No.
CV 12-529 DAR, 2016 WL 5312643, at *3 (D.D.C. Sept. 22, 2016)
(collecting cases). Others, however, have applied the same
rate to fees litigation that was applied to the underlying
IDEA litigation. See McNeil v. D.C., No. CV 14-1981
(RC), 2017 WL 456390, at *3 (D.D.C. Feb. 2, 2017) (collecting
cases); Jones v. B.C., 153 F.Supp.3d 114, 123-25
(D.D.C. 2015). This Court has not had the occasion to
determine whether reduced fee rates are appropriate for fees
on fees litigation, although it notes that in one instance it
adopted the recommendation of Judge Kay to award 50%
Laffey rates for fees on fees where neither party
objected. See Joaquin v. D.C., 210 F.Supp.3d 64,
74-75 (D.D.C. 2016).
Court finds that it is not appropriate to reduce the
Laffey rates by 50% for fees on fees. Although the
D.C. Circuit has not determined "whether all aspects of
an IDEA litigation should be treated as a unified whole,
subject to the same prevailing market rate, " Reed
v. D.C, 843 F.3d 517, 526 (D.C. Cir. 2016), it has
previously treated different aspects of IDEA litigation as
one proceeding, holding that the fee cap provision
"encompasses both administrative proceedings and
subsequent fee requests." See Kaseman, 444 F.3d
at 643. The Kaseman Court found it appropriate to
treat "a prevailing party's fee request as part of
the same 'action' as the underlying educational
dispute, despite being brought pursuant to an independent
'cause of action.'" Id. at 641-42.
Given this Circuit precedent, this Court agrees with other
members of the District Court who have held that a plaintiff
seeking fees on fees need not again demonstrate that the fee
rate sought is reasonable-after doing so in the underlying
fee litigation-because it also "arises out of the same
controversy" as the underlying IDEA issue. See
McNeil, 2017 WL 456390, at *3-4; Jones, 153
F.Supp.3d at 123.
Court has already determined that full Laffey rates
apply to the work conducted on this matter. See
Shaw, 210 F.Supp.3d at 51. As noted by another member of
this Court, "[r]elitigating the issue would be illogical
given that the initial fee proceeding and this proceeding are
parts of the same action. To do so would also increase the
burden on the courts and unnecessarily protract the
litigation without advancing the goals of IDEA."
McNeil, 2017 WL 456390, at *4. This Court will not
reopen the issue of reasonable rates in the fees on fees
context. Plaintiff will be awarded fees at full
Laffey rates for the work spent on the fee
foregoing reasons, the Court will grant plaintiffs motion for
attorneys' fees. It will order the District to reimburse
plaintiffs $19, 052.95 for fees and costs. ...