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I.T., By and Through His Parents Renee and Floyd T v. Department of Education

January 30, 2013

I.T., BY AND THROUGH HIS PARENTS RENEE AND FLOYD T., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, STATE OF HAWAII, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Leslie E. Kobayashi United States District Judge

ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S OBJECTIONS TO MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION TO GRANT IN PART AND DENY IN PART PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR ATTORNEY'S FEES AND ORDER ADOPTING THE FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION

On November 30, 2012, the magistrate judge filed his Findings and Recommendation to Grant in Part and Deny in Part Plaintiff's Motion for Attorneys' Fees and Related Nontaxable Expenses ("F&R"). [Dkt. no. 42.] On December 14, 2012, Plaintiff I.T., by and through his parents Renee and Floyd T. ("Plaintiff"), filed objections to the F&R ("Objections"). Defendant Department of Education, State of Hawai'i ("DOE" or "Defendant") filed its response to Plaintiff's Objections ("Response") on December 28, 2012. The Court finds this matter suitable for disposition without a hearing pursuant to Rules LR7.2(d) and LR74.2 of the Local Rules of Practice of the United States District Court for the District of Hawai`i ("Local Rules"). After careful consideration of the parties' submissions and the relevant legal authority, the Court HEREBY DENIES Plaintiff's Objections and ADOPTS the magistrate judge's F&R, for the reasons set forth below.

BACKGROUND

On September 11, 2012, this Court issued its Amended Order Affirming in Part and Vacating and Remanding in Part the Hearings Officer's October 6, 2011 Decision ("9/11/12 Order"). [Dkt. no. 31.] In the 9/11/12 Order, the Court ruled as follows:

1) Defendant violated the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 ("IDEA"), 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et seq., by failing to evaluate Student for a suspected auditory processing disorder, although this violation did not deny Student a Free Appropriate Public Education ("FAPE") because the evidence ultimately established that he did not have the disorder; and

2) Defendant denied Student a FAPE by failing to address his speech/language needs until formulation of the August 23, 2010 Individualized Education Programs ("IEP"). The Court GRANTS Plaintiffs' request for compensatory education as a remedy for the denial of FAPE and REMANDS this matter to the Hearings Officer for a determination of the form of the compensatory education. The Decision is AFFIRMED in all other respects. [9/11/12 Order at 2.]

I. Motion For Attorneys' Fees

On September 25, 2012, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Attorneys' Fees and Related Nontaxable Expenses ("Motion"). [Dkt. no. 32.] Plaintiff requested the following fees:

Name Hours Rate Total

John Dellera 176.25 $290.00 $51,112.50 Jerel Fonseca 20.15 $285.00 $5,742.75

Denise Wong 92.9 $125.00 $11,612.50 Tax (4.712%) $3,226.20 Totals 289.3 $71,693.95

Defendant did not contest that Plaintiff was the prevailing party. The magistrate judge found and recommended that Plaintiff be awarded the following fees:

Name Hours Rate Total

John Dellera 147.28 $275.00 $40,502.00 Jerel Fonseca 12.65 $285.00 $3,605.25 Denise Wong 91.26 $125.00 $11,407.50 Tax (4.712%) $2,615.86 Totals 251.19 $58,130.61

[F&R at 27.]

II. Objections and Response

Plaintiff raises objections to the following rulings in the F&R: (1) the magistrate judge's denial of Mr. Dellera's request for an inflation adjustment for his hourly rate from $275.00 to $290.00; (2) the reduction for excessive hours based on duplication of effort and time spent reviewing the administrative record; (3) the time reduction for clerical tasks, including routine communications with the Court and client; (4) the reduction for block billing; (5) the 20% reduction based on the degree of success; and (6) the reduction for insufficient descriptions of services provided by Mr. Fonseca. In the Response, Defendant urges the Court to overrule Plaintiff's Objections. It asserts that although Plaintiff is the prevailing party for purposes of fees, Plaintiff is entitled to reasonable attorneys' fees Defendant and disputes the reasonableness of the fees requested by Mr. Dellera.

STANDARD

Any party may file objections to a magistrate judge's findings and recommendation regarding a ...


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