United States District Court, D. New Jersey, Camden Vicinage
J.L., a minor, individually and by her Parents K.L. and J.L., Plaintiffs,
HARRISON TOWNSHIP BOARD OF EDUCATION and CLEARVIEW BOARD OF EDUCATION, Defendants.
Epstein, Esq. Attorney for Plaintiffs J.L., a minor,
individually and by her Parents K.L. and J.L.
E.J. Gorman, Esq. Parker McCay PA, Attorney for Defendants
Harrison Township Board of Education and Clearview Board of
OPINION [DOCKET NO. 101]
RENÉE MARIE BUMB, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
years of protracted and hostile litigation, on August 19,
2016, this Court issued an Opinion and Order on
Plaintiffs' Motion for Attorney's Fees [Docket Nos.
95, 96]. The Court addressed Plaintiffs' request for
attorney's fees as a prevailing party and found that
Plaintiffs' counsel had engaged in bad faith and
improperly prolonged the litigation in order to inflate his
fees. As a result, in addressing Plaintiffs' first Motion
for Attorney's Fees, the Court granted, in part, denied,
in part, and reserved, in part. Specifically, the Court found
that Plaintiffs were entitled to reasonable attorney's
fees as prevailing parties, which, however, represented only
a fraction of the hours billed by Plaintiffs' counsel,
Jamie Epstein, at a reasonable hourly rate to be determined
at a hearing on a later date, unless Defendants agreed to the
$500 hourly rate requested by Plaintiffs. Mr. Epstein attacks
this latter statement as an advisory opinion by the Court.
thereafter, on August 31, 2016, Defendants' counsel,
Brett Gorman, submitted a letter on the public docket
advising the Court and Plaintiffs that Defendants stipulated
to Plaintiffs' requested hourly rate of $500 [Docket No.
97], thereby obviating the need for a hearing regarding the
appropriate hourly rate. Remarkably, over approximately the
next two weeks, counsel for the parties attempted to
negotiate a proposed form of order for the Court's
consideration and signature in light of Defendants'
stipulation to Plaintiffs' requested hourly rate.
Unfortunately, yet unsurprisingly, these negotiations failed.
Defendants' counsel submitted a proposed form of order on
September 13, 2016 [Docket No. 98]. That same day, the Court
issued a Final Order and Judgment, noting that Defendants had
stipulated to Plaintiffs' requested rate of $500 per
hour, without conceding that this represented an appropriate
market rate [Docket No. 99].
later, Plaintiffs moved once again for attorney's fees
incurred as a result of the negotiations regarding the
submission of a simple proposed form of order, originally
requesting in excess of $3, 250 [Docket No. 101]. After full
briefing on this motion, Plaintiffs now demand $5, 000 in
attorney's fees [Docket No. 109]. The Court has
considered the parties' submissions and finds
Plaintiffs' requested attorney's fees of $5, 000 to
be not only excessive and unreasonable, but unconscionable.
For the reasons set forth herein, Plaintiffs' Second
Motion for Attorney's Fees is denied.
August 25, 2015, this Court ruled that Plaintiffs were the
prevailing parties in the underlying litigation, pursuant to
the Individuals with Disabilities Act, 20 U.S.C. § 1400,
et seq. (“IDEA”), and Section 504 of the
Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794 [Docket Nos. 69,
IDEA, a prevailing party may be awarded reasonable
attorney's fees, as follows:
(B) Award of attorney's fees. (i) In general, in any
action or proceeding brought under this section, the court,
in its discretion, may award reasonable attorney's fees
as part of the costs--
(I) to a prevailing party who is the parent of a child with a
20 U.S.C. § 1415(i)(3)(B)(i)(I). IDEA, however,
mandates a reduction in fees whenever the court
finds that “the parent, or the parent's attorney,
during the course of the action or proceeding, unreasonably
protracted the final resolution of the controversy.” 20
U.S.C. § 1415(i)(3)(F)(i).
the Rehabilitation Act authorizes an award of attorney's
fees to a prevailing party in the court's discretion:
(b) In any action or proceeding to enforce or charge a
violation of a provision of this title, the court, in its
discretion, may allow the prevailing party . . . a reasonable