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M v. City of Chicago Board of Education

November 8, 2010

M ET AL
v.
THE CITY OF CHICAGO BOARD OF EDUCATION



Name of Assigned Judge Amy J. St. Eve Sitting Judge if Other or Magistrate Judge than Assigned Judge

TITLE

DOCKET ENTRY TEXT

The Court grants Plaintiffs' motion for attorney's fees and costs [25] in the amount of $23,216.35.

O [For further details see text below.] Notices mailed by Judicial staff.

STATEMENT

On April 6, 2010, Plaintiffs Matthew M., a minor, and Mark M. and Julie M., individually and as parents and next friend of Matthew ("Plaintiffs"), filed the present lawsuit against Defendant Board of Education of the City of Chicago, District 299 (the "District") for attorney's fees and costs pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA"). See 20 U.S.C. § 1415(i)(3)(B). On July 7, 2010, the Court grant Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment and denied the District's motion for summary judgment. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). The Court thus awarded Plaintiffs $73,861.03 -- plus prejudgment interest at 3.25% -- in attorney's fees. On July 13, 2010, Plaintiffs submitted a fee petition for attorney's fees and costs incurred in litigating the Section 1415(i)(3)(B) claim to the District. Plaintiffs' counsel maintains that they have communicated with the District in an attempt to reach an agreement under Northern District of Illinois Local Rule 54.3 to no avail. Thereafter, Plaintiffs filed the present motion seeking $25,711.35 in attorney's fees and costs. For the following reasons, the Court, in its discretion, grants Plaintiffs' motion for attorney's fees and costs in the amount of $23,216.35.

LEGAL STANDARD

In general, federal courts apply the same principles applicable to attorney's fees awards for civil rights cases under 42 U.S.C. § 1988 to IDEA cases. See Jodlowski v. Valley View Cmty. Unit Sch. Dist. No. 365-U, 109 F.3d 1250, 1253 n.2 (7th Cir. 1997) (citing Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 433 n.7, 103 S.Ct. 1933, 76 L.Ed.2d 40 (1983)). When determining whether attorney's fees are reasonable, the Court considers the lodestar figure, namely, "the number of hours reasonably expended on the litigation multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate." Enoch v. Tienor, 570 F.3d 821, 823 (7th Cir. 2009) (quoting Hensley, 461 U.S. at 433). The "lodestar figure is the 'starting point' and "[o]nce that figure is determined, the court may consider other factors set out in Hensley," which "include whether the documentation of the hours is adequate and whether 'billing judgment' was used." Enoch, 570 F.3d at 823-34. Courts are mindful that a "request for attorney's fees should not result in a second major litigation." Sottoriva v. Claps, 617 F.3d 971, 975 (7th Cir. 2010) (quoting Hensley, 461 U.S. at 437). "In light of this concern, as well as the fact that determining what qualifies as a 'reasonable' use of a lawyer's time is a highly contextual and fact-specific enterprise," district courts have wide latitude when awarding attorney's fees. Sottoriva, 617 F.3d at 975.

ANALYSIS

I. Plaintiffs' Attorney Michael O'Connor

A. Complaint

First, the District maintains that O'Connor's billing of 4.8 hours to draft the federal complaint is excessive because the complaint is a form complaint and certain language is identical to other IDEA actions counsel has brought in this district.*fn1 The complaint, however, alleges facts and information particular to the present lawsuit, and thus is not as formulaic as the District suggests. The Court, in its discretion, thus declines to reduce the 4.8 hours for drafting and revising the complaint initiating this lawsuit.

B. Affidavits

Next, the District objects to O'Connor billing a total of 1 hour for drafting two attorney affidavits that are similar to the affidavits filed in other matters in this district. The Court agrees that the affidavits drafted in this lawsuit are nothing more than cut and pasted from the affidavits filed in similar lawsuits, and thus reduces the time for drafting and ...


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