A recent decision by U.S. District Court Judge Renee Marie Bumb found that a special education attorney who demanded nearly $150,000 in fees for litigating a special education matter against the board of education was not entitled to the full amount of fees requested. (The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) permits the payment of legal fees to a plaintiff’s attorney when the plaintiffs prevail in a case.)
In J.L. v. Harrison Twp. Bd. of Educ. et al, the amount of the fee demand was surprising because the district initially offered to settle with the parents by agreeing to nearly all of the parents’ demands for changes to their child’s Individualized Instructional Program (“IEP”).
Despite that offer, the parents insisted that a specialist chosen by them be allowed to educate and train the IEP team, a demand that the court determined was not legally permissible. In this particular case, the district court suggested that a reduction in fees by more than 90 percent was appropriate due to the attorney’s conduct during the course of the litigation.
The court determined that the parent’s attorney’s failure to engage in settlement discussions or to even answer the most basic question was simply inexcusable.
While the court reserved judgment on the total fees to be awarded, it did note that the reduction in allowed billable hours would have reduced the final bill from $149,900 to $12,800.
The full text of the decision is available here.