J.L. v. Harrison Twp. Bd. of Educ., 15-7-8449, U. S. Dist. Ct. (Bumb, U.S.D.J.)

Unnecessary and protracted litigation results in reduced attorneys fees, even though the plaintiffs prevailed.

The plaintiffs, K.L. & J.L., individually and on behalf of their minor child, J.L., filed a request for due process hearing under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, claiming, among other claims, that the school district failed to provide J.L. with a free and appropriate education in the least restrictive environment and had failed to accommodate her disabilities. The ALJ dismissed their petition, finding that the defendants had voluntarily agreed to provide all relief sought. The plaintiffs then filed a complaint in federal court for attorney fees and costs as “prevailing parties.” The court found that the plaintiffs were prevailing parties under the IDEA and Section 504 since they achieved the relief they sought in their litigation. However, the record was clear that the plaintiffs’ attorney unnecessarily and unreasonably protracted the litigation by failing to respond to the defendants’ attorney’s repeated requests for what specific relief the plaintiffs were seeking with a view toward meeting those demands and instead insisting on discovery first. The court concluded that a reduction in fees was clearly warranted.

Case Law Alerts, 1st Quarter, January 2016

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