United States District Court, D. Hawaii
J.T., by and through his parents Renee and Floyd T., Plaintiffs,
DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, STATE OF Hawai'i, Defendant.
ORDER: GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART
DEFENDANT'S OBJECTIONS TO THE MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S
FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION; DENYING PLAINTIFFS'
OBJECTIONS; AND ADOPTING THE FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION, AS
E. KOBAYASHI UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
30, 2018, the magistrate judge filed his Findings and
Recommendation to Grant in Part and Deny in Part
Plaintiff's Second Motion for Attorney's Fees and
Related Nontaxable Expenses (“F&R”). [Dkt.
no. 145.] Defendant Department of Education, State of
Hawai'i (“Defendant” or “the
DOE”) filed its objections to the F&R (“DOE
Objections”) on August 13, 2018, and Plaintiffs J.T.
(“Student”), by and through his parents Renee and
Floyd T. (collectively “Plaintiffs”), filed their
cross-objections to the F&R (“Plaintiffs'
Objections”) on August 17, 2018. [Dkt. nos. 146, 147.]
Plaintiffs filed their response to the DOE Objections
(“Plaintiffs' Response”) on August 22, 2018,
and the DOE filed its response to Plaintiffs' Objections
(“DOE Response”) on August 27, 2018. [Dkt. nos.
148, 149.] The Court has considered both objections as
non-hearing matters pursuant to Rule LR7.2(e) of the Local
Rules of Practice of the United States District Court for the
District of Hawaii (“Local Rules”). The DOE
Objections are hereby granted in part and denied in part,
Plaintiffs' Objections are hereby denied, and the F&R
is adopted as modified by the instant Order, for the reasons
set forth below. This Court hereby awards Plaintiffs $114,
257.55 in attorney's fees.
31, 2012, this Court issued an Order Reversing in Part and
Remanding Hearings Officer's Order Dated September 12,
2011 (“5/31/12 Order”) and, on August 14, 2017,
the Ninth Circuit issued a memorandum disposition reversing
the 5/31/12 Order and remanding the case for further
proceedings (“Memorandum Disposition”). [Dkt. no.
27, 116. On May 31, 2018, this Court issued an
Order Affirming in Part and Vacating in Part Hearings
Officer's Order Dated September 12, 2011 (“5/31/18
Order”). [Dkt. no. 138. The hearings officer's
September 12, 2011 decision was affirmed as to the rulings
that Student was denied a Free Appropriate Public Education
(“FAPE”) at two Individualized Education Program
(“IEP”) team meetings. This Court vacated the
decision, insofar as this Court concluded the IEP team's
failure to consider a psychologist report and Renee T.'s
concerns about Student's out-of-school behavior also
denied Student a FAPE. This Court concluded Student's
placement at Loveland Academy (“Loveland”) was
appropriate, and that a partial reimbursement award was
warranted under the circumstances of this case. This Court
ordered reimbursement of $61, 137.47 under 20 U.S.C. §
1412(a)(10)(C)(ii) and reimbursement of $12, 187.61 under 20
U.S.C. § 1415(i)(2)(C)(iii), for a total award of $73,
325.08. 5/31/18 Order, 2018 WL 2449190, at *13-14.
final Judgment was issued on May 31, 2018, and Plaintiffs
timely filed their Second Motion for Attorney's Fees and
Related Nontaxable Expenses (“Fee Motion”) on
June 13, 2018. [Dkt. nos. 139, 140.] The Fee Motion seeks an
award of $162, 456.00 in attorney's fees, plus $7, 654.93
for general excise tax (“GET”), resulting in a
total award of $170, 110.93, for work performed from the
remand proceedings after the 5/31/12 Order through the
proceedings in this district court following the remand from
the Ninth Circuit. [Mem. in Supp. of Fee Motion at 17-18.]
Plaintiffs' reply in support of the Fee Motion
(“Fee Reply”) also requested additional
attorney's fees incurred in connection with the Fee
Reply. [Fee Reply, filed 7/19/18 (dkt. no. 144), at 9-10.]
Thus, the total request represents 396.4 hours of work by
John Dellera, Esq., at a rate of $420 per hour, plus GET, for
a total award of $174, 332.92. [Fee Reply at 9-10.]
magistrate judge found: Plaintiff is entitled to an award of
reasonable attorney's fees under the Individuals with
Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (“IDEA”), 20
U.S.C. § 1400, et seq.; [F&R at 2;] $400 is
a reasonable hourly rate for Mr. Dellera; Plaintiffs' fee
request should be reduced by twenty percent because of
limited success and by 6.7 hours for a fee motion Plaintiffs
prematurely filed before the Ninth Circuit, [id. at
6-7]. The magistrate judge therefore recommends that
Plaintiffs receive a fee award representing 389.7 hours of
work by Mr. Dellera at $400 per hour, reduced by 20%, plus
GET, for a total of $130, 580.05. [Id. at 8.]
Objections contest only the magistrate judge's finding as
to Mr. Dellera's reasonable hourly rate. Plaintiffs'
Objections contest only the magistrate judge's reduction
based on limited success.
Court reviews a magistrate judge's findings and
recommendations under the following standard:
When a party objects to a magistrate judge's findings or
recommendations, the district court must review de novo those
portions to which the objections are made and “may
accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings
or recommendations made by the magistrate judge.” 28
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); see also United States v.
Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 673 (1980); United States v.
Reyna-Tapia, 328 F.3d 1114, 1121 (9th Cir. 2003) (en
banc) (“[T]he district judge must review the magistrate
judge's findings and recommendations de novo if objection
is made, but not otherwise.”).
Under a de novo standard, this Court reviews “the
matter anew, the same as if it had not been heard before, and
as if no decision previously had been rendered.”
Freeman v. DirecTV, Inc., 457 F.3d 1001, 1004 (9th
Cir. 2006); United States v. Silverman, 861 F.2d
571, 576 (9th Cir. 1988). The district court need not hold a
de novo hearing; however, it is the court's obligation to
arrive at its own independent conclusion about those portions
of the magistrate judge's findings or recommendation to
which a party objects. United States v. Remsing, 874
F.2d 614, 616 (9th Cir. 1989).
Muegge v. Aqua Hotels & Resorts, Inc., Civil
09-00614 LEK-BMK, 2015 WL 4041313, at *2 (D. Hawai'i June
30, 2015) (alteration in Muegge) (some citations