United States District Court, District of Columbia
KEISHA WRIGHT Parent and Next Friend of J.J., et al., Plaintiffs,
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA A municipal corporation, Defendant.
BERMAN JACKSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Keisha Wright and her minor son, J.J., brought this suit
against defendant, the District of Columbia, to recover
attorneys' fees and costs incurred in an administrative
action brought under the Individuals with Disabilities
Education Act, 20 U.S.C. § 1400, et seq. Compl.
[Dkt # 1] ¶¶ 1-2. Plaintiffs moved to recover $103,
084.00 in attorneys' fees and costs on the basis that
they prevailed in the underlying administrative action.
Pls.' Mot. for Atty. Fees [Dkt. # 8]; Mem. of P. & A.
Submitted in Supp. of Pls.' Mot. [Dkt. # 8]
(“Pls.' Mem.”) at 3. Defendant opposed the
motion, arguing that the amount sought is unreasonable and
not supported by sufficient evidence, Def.'s Opp. to
Pl.'s Mot. [Dkt. # 9] (“Def.'s Opp.”) at
7-25, and plaintiffs filed a reply. Pls.' Mem. of P.
& A. in Reply to Def.'s Opp. [Dkt. # 10]
(“Pls.' Reply”). Defendant does not dispute
that plaintiffs prevailed in some respects, but it notes that
some of their administrative claims were unsuccessful.
reasons stated below, the Court will grant plaintiffs'
motion for attorneys' fees in part. The Court will award
$70, 051.52 in attorneys' fees for the underlying
administrative proceeding, and $461.14 in costs.
31, 2018, J.J., a minor-aged child, and his mother, Keisha
Wright, brought an administrative action against the District
of Columbia Public Schools (“DCPS”) alleging that
J.J. had been denied a Free Appropriate Public Education
(“FAPE”) in violation of the Individuals with
Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”). Compl.
¶ 11; Ex. 1 to Pls.' Mot. [Dkt. # 8-1]
(“Admin. Compl.”) at 3-29. At the time, J.J.
was enrolled in a D.C. public high school and he was eligible
to receive special education services as a student with
learning disabilities. Compl. ¶ 6; Admin. Compl. at 7.
Plaintiffs alleged several violations of the IDEA based upon
the school system's failure to comprehensively evaluate
J.J., and to provide him with adequate Individualized
Education Programs (“IEPs”) and an appropriate
school placement. Compl. ¶ 11.; Admin. Compl.
at 13-17. Plaintiff argued that as a result of the
District's inaction, J.J. was failing all of his academic
courses and his reading and math skills were at ¶
5th grade level. Admin. Compl. at 9- 10.
D.C. Office of the State Superintendent of Education
(“OSSE”) held a hearing with the parties on
October 1 and 5, 2018. Ex. 2 to Pls.' Mot. [Dkt. # 8-1]
(“Hearing Officer Determination”) at 32. On
October 13, 2018, the Hearing Officer issued a final
determination in which he partially ruled in plaintiffs'
favor. Id. at 42-53. Defendants were ordered to fund
150 hours of academic tutoring and 30 hours of counseling
from independent providers “in order to put [the]
Student in the place [he] should have been, but for the
denials of FAPE.” Id. at 51.
December 3, 2018, plaintiffs filed this suit for
attorneys' fees and costs related to the underlying IDEA
administrative action. Compl. ¶ 1. Plaintiffs seek
attorneys' fees and costs in the amount of $103, 084.00,
Pls.' Mem. at 3, and in support of that request, they
attach an invoice that lists the following rates and hours
expended by their attorneys and professional staff in the
• Kiran Hassan, Attorney: 174.92 hours at $517.00 = $90,
• Robert Jones, Attorney: 3.70 hours at $397.00 = $1,
• Ebony Johnson, Attorney: .68 hours at $323.00 =
• Coreen Williams, Law Clerk: 2.67 hours at $156.00 =
• Kelly Escamilla, Paralegal: 1.50 hours at $156.00 =
• Lucy Hernandez, Paralegal: 24.68 hours at $156.00 =
• Ashley Elliot, Expert Witness: 39.16 hours at $263.00
= $10, 299.08
Ex. 3 to Pls.' Mot. [Dkt. # 8-1] (“Time
Records”) at 72. Plaintiffs argue that they are
entitled to compensation based on a small discount to the
United States Attorney's Office (“USAO”)
Laffey Matrix rate. Pls.' Mem. at
argues that plaintiffs' requested award is unreasonable
because “(1) [p]laintiff[s] have provided insufficient
evidence that the hourly rate in the USAO Matrix is the
‘prevailing market rate' for attorneys practicing
IDEA law in the District, and (2) [p]laintiff is, at most, a
partially prevailing party, and any award should be reduced
to reflect the issues on which she was not successful.”
Def.'s Opp. at 1. Defendant insists that plaintiffs
should not be awarded more than $38, 593.21. Id. at
IDEA provides that “[i]n any action or proceeding
brought under this section, the court, in its discretion, may
award reasonable attorneys' fees as part of the cost . .
. to a prevailing party who is the parent of a child with a
disability.” 20 U.S.C. § 1415(i)(3)(B)(i)(I). If a
court determines that the plaintiff seeking attorneys'
fees is a prevailing party, it must determine whether the
requested attorneys' fees are reasonable. Reed v.
District of Columbia, 843 F.3d 517, 520(D.C. Cir. 2016).
Courts typically determine the reasonableness of
attorneys' fees based on the “number of hours
reasonably expended on the litigation multiplied by a
reasonable hourly rate.” Hensley v. Eckerhart,
461 U.S. 424, 433 (1983).
plaintiff bears the burden of establishing both the
reasonableness of the hourly rate and the reasonableness of
the number of hours spent on a particular task. Eley v.
District of Columbia, 793 F.3d 97, 100 (D.C. Cir. 2015),
citing Covington v. District of Columbia, 57 F.3d
1101, 1107- 08 (D.C. Cir. 1995). To show the reasonableness
of the hourly rates, a plaintiff must submit evidence related
to: (1) “the attorneys' billing practices”;
(2) “the attorneys' skill, experience, and
reputation”; and (3) “the prevailing market rates
in the relevant community.” Covington, 57 F.3d
at 1107. To show the reasonableness of hours spent on a task,
a plaintiff must submit a “sufficiently detailed
[invoice] to permit the District Court to make an independent
determination whether or not the hours claimed are
justified.” Nat'l Ass'n of Concerned
Veterans v. Sec'y of Def., 675 F.2d 1319, 1327 (D.C.
the moving party has met this burden, the number of hours and
rate are presumed to be reasonable, and the non-moving party
must rebut the moving party's showing with “equally
specific countervailing evidence.” Covington,
57 F.3d at ...