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J.H. v. Board of Education of Pikeland Coummunity Unit School District# 10

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Urbana Division

May 1, 2014

J.H., by his next friend, CONNIE THOMAS, Plaintiff,
v.
BOARD OF EDUCATION OF PIKELAND COUMMUNITY UNIT SCHOOL DISTRICT #10, ET AL., Defendants.

OPINION

COLIN S. BRUCE, District Judge.

Plaintiff filed his Complaint (#1) on November 20, 2013, alleging that he was entitled to attorneys' fees pursuant to an action brought under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). On February 20, 2014, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint (#17) adding Christopher Koch as a defendant. The case is currently before this court on Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (#11). This court has carefully reviewed the arguments of the parties and the documents they filed. For the following reasons, Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (#11) is GRANTED.

BACKGROUND

Since the age of 3, Plaintiff has received special education services from Pikeland Community Unit School District #10 (District). On March 4, 2013, Plaintiff's mother requested a due process hearing pursuant to 20 U.S.C. § 1415(f) on Plaintiff's behalf. At the time of the hearing request, Plaintiff was 15 years and 11 months old.

During the pre-hearing conference (PHC), the parties and the impartial hearing officer (IHO) determined that there were three main issues to be decided at the due process hearing:

a. Whether the District denied the Student a free appropriate public education (FAPE) by failing to evaluate the Student after a request by the Parent and a request from a local mental health center to determine the degree of the Student's emotional disturbance, in violation of 20 U.S.C. § 1414(a)(2) and 34 C.F.R. § 300.303(a);
b. Whether the District denied the Student a FAPE by failing to write an individualized educational program (IEP) that included measurable goals designed to address the Student's anxiety and depression;
c. Whether the District denied the Student a FAPE by failing to include related services of counseling and social work services specifically targeting the Student's anxiety and depression and to provide the Student with protection from bullying in school in violation of 20 U.S.C. § 1414(d)(4) and 34 C.F.R. §§ 300.321, .324(b).

At the conclusion of the hearing, the IHO ruled in favor of Plaintiff on the first two issues and ruled in favor of Defendant on the third issue. Based on its findings, the IHO ordered the District to: (1) convene an IEP team meeting that would review the evaluation completed by Dr. Jessica Patel and the recommendations by Dr. Phillip Woerner and consider whether to include in Plaintiff's IEP the eligibility categories of learning disability and major depressive disorder; (2) provide Plaintiff an independent Master's level educated counselor who would provide Plaintiff with counseling sessions focused on his depression; (3) pay for or provide Plaintiff with a social skills group experience; and (4) provide Plaintiff with 80 hours of tutoring in mathematics on a one to one basis.

The District did not file an appeal of the IHO's order. On July 25, 2013, Plaintiff made a demand for reimbursement of attorneys' fees. Thereafter, Plaintiff sent a copy of the itemized time and billing records to Defendant's attorney. Defendant has not paid for any of Plaintiff's attorneys' fees.

INSTANT LITIGATION

Plaintiff filed his complaint (#1) with this court, arguing that he is entitled to collect attorneys' fees relating to the above action pursuant to 20 U.S.C. § 1415(i)(3)(A)-(B). On January 31, 2014, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (#11). Plaintiff claimed that he was entitled to summary judgment because the undisputed facts show that he prevailed in the IDEA claim and his attorneys charged a reasonable fee resulting in attorneys' fees of $51, 873.74. Further, Plaintiff argued that he was entitled to prejudgment interest. Attached to the motion were a number of exhibits including affidavits stating that the reasonable hourly rates for Plaintiff's attorneys were $350 for Thomas E. Kennedy, III, $300 for Douglas L. Stevick, and $175 for Roshni C. Shikari. Also included was an invoice for services provided by each of the above attorneys on Plaintiff's behalf.

Defendant filed its Response (#20) to Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment on February 24, 2014. Defendant argued that Plaintiff's fees were unreasonable because Plaintiff failed to obtain all the relief requested in his IDEA claim; Plaintiff's fee petition contained unreasonable charges not allowed under the IDEA; and prejudgment interest is not appropriate in this case. Plaintiff's Reply (#22) to Defendant's Response was filed on March 12, 2014. In it, Plaintiff again argued that the ...


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