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J.S. v. Crown Point Central School Dist.

February 9, 2007

J.S., A CHILD WITH A DISABILITY, INDIVIDUALLY AND BY HIS PARENT AND NEXT FRIEND, D.S., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
CROWN POINT CENTRAL SCHOOL DISTRICT, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Scullin, Senior Judge.

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Currently before the Court are Defendant's motion for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Plaintiffs' cross-motion for an Order granting attorney's fees.*fn1

II. BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs commenced this action on February 7, 2006, seeking reimbursement of attorney's fees pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA"). Defendant is a public school district and a local educational agency within the meaning of the IDEA. See 20 U.S.C. § 1415(i)(3). Plaintiff J.S. is a child with a disability within the meaning of the IDEA and Plaintiff D.S. is his parent.

Plaintiff D.S. initiated the underlying administrative proceeding by service of a Demand for a Due Process Hearing dated June 29, 2005. More than ten days prior to the commencement of the hearing, Defendant's counsel submitted a settlement offer to Plaintiff D.S., which she did not accept.

The Impartial Hearing Officer James Walsh ("IHO") held four days of hearings on August 24, 25, 26 and September 19, 2005. Before the hearing began, the IHO issued a letter-decision, in which he dismissed some of Plaintiffs' claims as time-barred. Following four days of hearings, the IHO issued a decision in which he concluded that (1) Plaintiff D.S. was not entitled to reimbursement for monies that she had paid to the Sylvan Learning Center for supplemental instructional services; (2) Plaintiff D.S. was not entitled to reimbursement for monies that she had paid to the Stern Center for Plaintiff J.S.'s evaluation in May 2004; and (3) the special education program that Defendant's Committee on Special Education ("CSE") recommended at its March 18, 2005 meeting and which was reflected in Plaintiff J.S.'s I.E.P for the 2005-2006 school year was totally insufficient to address Plaintiff J.S.'s special education needs. In light of his conclusion that Plaintiff J.S.'s I.E.P. did not meet his needs, the IHO determined that the I.E.P. must be annulled.

On November 15, 2005, after the IHO had issued his decision, Defendant received correspondence, including billing records, from Plaintiffs' counsel requesting attorney's fees in the amount of $59,825 based on Plaintiffs' claim that they were the prevailing party in the administrative proceeding. When the parties could not reach an agreement about the amount of attorney's fees, Plaintiffs commenced this action.

III. DISCUSSION

The IDEA provides, in pertinent part, as follows:

(3) Jurisdiction of district courts; attorneys' fees

(A) In general

The district courts of the United States shall have jurisdiction of actions brought under this section without regard to the amount in controversy.

(B) Award of attorneys' fees

(i) In general

In any action or proceeding brought under this section, the court, in its discretion, may award reasonable attorneys' fees as part of the costs --

(I) to a prevailing party who is the parent of a child with a disability; . . .

(C) Determination of amount of attorneys' fees

Fees awarded under this paragraph shall be based on rates prevailing in the community in which the action or proceeding arose for the kind and quality of services furnished. No bonus or multiplier may be used in calculating the fees awarded under this subsection.

(D) Prohibition of attorneys' fees and related costs for certain services

(i) In general Attorneys' fees may not be awarded and related costs may not be reimbursed in any action or proceeding under this section for services performed subsequent to the time of a written offer of settlement to a parent if --

(I) the offer is made within the time prescribed by Rule 68 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure or, in the case of an administrative proceeding, at any time more than 10 days before the proceeding begins;

(II) the offer is not accepted within 10 days; and

(III) the court or administrative hearing officer finds that the relief finally obtained by the parents is not more favorable to the ...


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