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A.L. et al v. Chicago Public School District #299

July 24, 2012

A.L. ET AL
v.
CHICAGO PUBLIC SCHOOL DISTRICT #299



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

CASE TITLE

DOCKET ENTRY TEXT

Plaintiffs' motion for attorney's fees and costs [151] is granted in the amount of $82,544.32. Defendant shall transmit this amount to Plaintiffs' counsel by 9/24/12.

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

STATEMENT

Before the Court is Plaintiffs' Motion for Attorney Fees and Costs pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA"). (R. 151.) As described below, the motion is granted in the amount of $82,544.32.

BACKGROUND

In February of 2008, Plaintiffs filed a due process complaint against Defendant, alleging and seeking to remedy various violations of A.L.'s right to a "free appropriate public education," or "FAPE." Following numerous evaluations of A.L., a Hearing Officer conducted a four-day administrative hearing on July 21-23 and September 14, 2009. On September 23, 2009, the Hearing Officer found that Defendant's actions deprived A.L. of a free appropriate public education, and entered Final Order granting certain relief. On January 25, 2010, Plaintiffs filed the present action against Defendant, alleging various violations of federal law, as well as requesting attorney's fees and costs pursuant to the IDEA, 20 U.S.C. § 1415(i)(3)(B). (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 146-86.) On November 18, 2011, the Court granted summary judgment for Defendant on Plaintiffs' federal claims, but reserved decision on Plaintiffs' claim for attorney's fees. (R. 132, 134.) Plaintiffs have since filed a fee petition, which is now fully briefed.

LEGAL STANDARD

The prevailing party in a state administrative proceeding within the meaning of the IDEA may recover reasonable attorney's fees. See 20 U.S.C. § 1415(i)(3)(B) ("the court, in its discretion, may award reasonable attorneys' fees as part of the costs . . . to a prevailing party who is the parent of a child with a disability"); Schaffer v. Weast, 546 U.S. 49, 54, 126 S. Ct. 528, 532-33, 163 L. Ed. 2d 387 (2005); T.D. v. LaGrange Sch. Dist. No. 102, 349 F.3d 469, 479 (7th Cir. 2003) ("the IDEA does allow fees to the prevailing party in administrative hearings"). The principles governing a fee award under the IDEA are the same as those applicable to civil rights cases under 42 U.S.C. § 1988. 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)).

To determine a reasonable fee, the Seventh Circuit instructs district courts to use the lodestar method, namely to multiply the "number of hours reasonably expended on the litigation . . . by a reasonable hourly rate." Pickett v. Sheridan Health Care Cent., 664 F.3d 632, 639 (7th Cir. 2011) (quoting Hensley, 461 U.S. at 433). This method "applies even in cases where the attorney represents the prevailing party pursuant to a contingent fee agreement." Pickett, 664 F.3d at 639. After arriving at the lodestar figure, "other considerations . . . may lead the district court to adjust the fee upward or downward, including the important factor of the 'results obtained.'" Hensley, 461 U.S. at 434. If a "plaintiff prevails on only some of his interrelated claims, . . . . the 'district court may attempt to identify specific hours that should be eliminated, or it may simply reduce the award to account for the limited success.'" Sottoriva v. Claps, 617 F.3d 971, 975 (7th Cir. 2010) (quoting Hensley, 461 U.S. at 436-37); see also LaSalvia v. City of Evanston, No. 10 C 3076, 2012 WL 2502703, at *5 (N.D. Ill. June 28, 2012) (reducing lodestar by 50% based on counsel's limited success).

ANALYSIS

Here, Plaintiffs seek to recover $132,020.00 in fees, together with pre-judgment interest at a rate of

3.25%, for the work performed by Attorneys Sheri Bianchin and Joseph Thomas and their respective paralegals, Brad Bradley and Jean Kulczuk. Plaintiffs also seek to recover $2,130.69 in costs. According to Plaintiffs' Exhibit 6 (Corrected), filed at Docket No. 160, Plaintiffs compute their requested fees as follows:

State Administrative Proceedings Federal Fee Litigation Hours Hourly Rate Amount Hours Hourly Rate Amount

Attorney Bianchin 213.80 $300.00 $64,140.00 52.20 $300.00 $15,660.00 Attorney Bianchin 10.20 $150.00 $1,530.00 10.00 $150.00 $1,500.00 (Travel)

Attorney Thomas 113.90 $275.00 $31,322.50 8.80 $300.00 $2,640.00 19.70 $275.00 $5,417.50

Attorney Thomas 18.80 $137.50 $2,585.00 12.00 $137.50 $1,650.00 (Travel)

Paralegal Bradley 39.75 $100.00 $3,975.00 2.50 $100.00 $250.00 Paralegal Kulczyk 13.50 $100.00 $1,350.00 -- -- --Sub-Total ...


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