BROOKS v. DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
MEMORANDUM OPINION regarding 35 Motion for Attorney's Fees and 44 Plaintff's Objections to Report and Recommendation of Magistrate Judge Regarding Attorney's Fees. Signed by Judge Beryl A. Howell on December 17, 2012. (lcbah1)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
Civil Action No. 10-913 (BAH)
Judge Beryl A. Howell
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA,
This action was brought by the original plaintiff, Angela Brooks, against the defendant
District of Columbia (“the District”) pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education
Improvement Act (“IDEIA”), 20 U.S.C §§ 1400, et seq., on behalf of her then-minor child,
Ronnie Thomas, seeking to compel the District of Columbia to issue a revised Individualized
Education Plan (“IEP”) for her daughter consistent with an August 2009 vocational evaluation. 1
Although the merits of the plaintiff’s claims have already been resolved, the plaintiff now seeks
attorney’s fees from the defendant under the IDEIA’s fee-shifting provision, 20 U.S.C
§ 1415(i)(3)(B). The primary questions before the Court are the appropriate hourly rate to apply
and the appropriate number of hours to permit for certain tasks.
The original plaintiff, Ms. Brooks, commenced this lawsuit on June 3, 2010, seeking
declaratory and injunctive relief for the District’s failure to review a vocational evaluation of her
daughter (Ms. Thomas) in a timely manner, the District’s subsequent failure to review and revise
Ms. Thomas’s IEP, and the District’s failure to provide a free appropriate public education
On January 28, 2012, Ronnie Thomas was substituted as the real party in interest in this action. See Order dated
Jan. 28, 2012, ECF No. 33.
(“FAPE”). See Compl. ¶¶ 1, 11–22, ECF No. 1. The case was referred to a Magistrate Judge for
a Report and Recommendation, which issued on August 10, 2011, recommending that the
plaintiff be granted summary judgment on her three claims. See Report & Recommendation
dated Aug. 10, 2011, at 16, ECF No. 21. On August 31, 2011, the Court adopted the Report and
Recommendation in full, granting summary judgment to the plaintiff in part, and denying
summary judgment to the District. See Order dated Aug. 31, 2011, ECF No. 22. In connection
with the defendant’s motion for reconsideration of that decision, the Court recited the factual
background underlying the plaintiff’s substantive claims in a previous memorandum opinion,
which the Court incorporates here by reference. See Brooks v. District of Columbia, 841 F.
Supp. 2d 253 (D.D.C. 2012).
Relevant to the matter currently before the Court, the plaintiff filed a motion for
attorney’s fees and costs, which the Court also referred to a Magistrate Judge for report and
recommendation. See Pl.’s Mot. for Fees & Costs (“Pl.’s Mot.”), ECF No. 35; see also Order
dated Mar. 16, 2012, ECF No. 36. In her motion, the plaintiff sought $43,589 in attorney’s fees
and costs associated with the litigation of her IDEIA claims. See Pl.’s Mot. at 1. The plaintiff
based her request on a line-item accounting of tasks performed by her counsel, Douglas Tyrka,
throughout the litigation, and the rates were based upon an adjusted version of the so-called
Laffey matrix—a matrix of hourly rates for attorneys of varying experience levels approved by
this Circuit. 2 See Mem. in Supp. of Pl.’s Mot. for Fees & Costs (“Pl.’s Mem.”) at 4–7, ECF No.
There are two versions of the Laffey matrix:
One version, which is maintained by the Civil Division of the Office of the United States
Attorney . . . , calculates the matrix rate for each year by adding the change in the overall cost of
living, as reflected in the United States Consumer Price Index (‘CPI’) for the Washington, D.C.
area for the prior year, and then rounding that rate to the nearest multiple of $5. A second, slightly
different version of the Laffey Matrix . . . , also in use in the Washington, D.C. area, calculates the
matrix rates for each year by using the legal services component of the CPI rather than the general
CPI on which the U.S. Attorney’s Office Matrix is based.
35; Pl.’s Mot. Ex. 1, ECF No. 35-1. See generally Laffey v. Nw. Airlines, Inc., 572 F. Supp. 354
(D.D.C. 1983), aff’d in part, rev’d in part on other grounds, 746 F.2d 4 (D.C. Cir. 1984). The
District opposed the magnitude of the relief sought by the plaintiff, arguing that the adjusted
Laffey rates were too high for a “routine administrative litigation” and that many of the specific
charges claimed were unreasonable, excessive, or overly vague. See Mem. of P. & A. in Opp’n
to Pl.’s Mot. for Fees & Costs (“Def.’s Opp’n”) at 3–16, ECF No. 38. As a result, the District
argued that the plaintiff’s fee award should be reduced to $8,437. See id. at 17.
The Report and Recommendation (“R&R”), issued on August 31, 2012, recommended
that the plaintiff be granted attorney’s fees at 75% of the standard Laffey rates, rather than the
100% of the adjusted Laffey rates requested, and that charges for certain tasks be reduced,
resulting in a total fee award of $19,546.88. See Report & Recommendation dated Aug. 31,
2012 (“R&R”) at 8, 12–13, 17, ECF No. 41. The R&R recognized that the plaintiff had
submitted evidence that her counsel’s hourly rates were significantly higher ($609 per hour), id.
at 3, 8, but nevertheless concluded that the 75% figure ($307.50–$326.25) was “fair and just,” id.
At the outset, the R&R cited guidance promulgated by the defendant—in particular the
District of Columbia Public Schools (“DCPS”)—as support for the recommendation. See id. at
7–8. The DCPS guidance uses 75% of the standard Laffey rates as a measure of reasonable
hourly rates in IDEIA matters. See R&R Ex. 1, at 2, ECF No. 41-1. Although acknowledging
Smith v. District of Columbia, 466 F. Supp. 2d 151, 156 (D.D.C. 2006) (citation and internal quotation marks
omitted). The adjusted Laffey matrix, or “Salazar matrix”—named after Salazar v. District of Columbia, 123 F.
Supp. 2d 8 (D.D.C. 2000), which approved of the adjusted matrix—results in higher rates because it uses the legal
services component of the national CPI rather than the general CPI for the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area. See
Blackman v. District of Columbia, 677 F. Supp. 2d 169, 176 (D.D.C. 2010). The plaintiff in the instant action
submitted her fee petition based on an adjusted Laffey rate ($609), and the R&R recommended awarding the
plaintiff fees at three-quarters of the standard Laffey rates ($307.50–$326.25). The Court will refer to the matrix
based on the general CPI as the “standard” Laffey matrix and the matrix based on the legal services component of
the CPI as the “adjusted” Laffey matrix.
that plaintiff’s counsel could “complain that he is being forced to work at a 25% discount from
his hourly rates” and that “the lawyer’s hourly rate is a vital consideration,” the R&R pointed to
several policy-based considerations in support of the conclusion that the 75% figure was the
appropriate one. R&R at 8. First, the R&R noted that the public interest in “encouraging
lawyers to take on IDEA cases for families who cannot afford them . . . must be balanced against
the reality that, ironically, those lawyers and children . . . are competing for the same dollars
from a finite appropriation.” Id. at 9. Hence, the R&R concluded that considerations of “the
public fisc” supported the discounted 75% figure. Id. Next, the R&R identified the advantages
of certainty that would result if courts used a uniform rate for IDEIA cases, stating that “[w]hile
the lawyers may be receiving less . . . they know exactly what they will receive . . . . [and] [t]hey
also know that they will receive it as soon as their vouchers are submitted and approved.” Id.
Third, the R&R opined that “a system based on 75% of the Laffey rate should result in fewer
challenges in this Court to the amounts paid by DCPS” because the “prompt payment” by DCPS
would mean that “the Court will see few if any IDEA fees cases.” Id. at 9–10. Finally, the R&R
determined that the 75% figure would be sufficient “to provide the bar sufficient encouragement
to take IDEA cases” because it would still yield “several thousand dollars per day” for the
plaintiffs’ bar, assuming a forty-hour work week at those rates. Id. at 10.
In addition to this discussion of the appropriate hourly rate, the R&R also concluded that
certain charges submitted by the plaintiff were excessive and needed to be reduced. Specifically,
the R&R found that the plaintiff’s counsel should have been able to research, outline, draft, and
file the plaintiff’s 16-page memorandum of law in support of her motion for summary judgment
in 8 hours rather than the 13.75 hours that was recorded. See id. at 11–12. Further, the R&R
concluded that “it should not have taken an attorney with [plaintiff’s counsel’s] legal experience
(over 13 years in 2012) 6.5 hours to complete” a petition for attorney’s fees and costs. Id. at 13.
Rather, the R&R proposed a reduction in the hours for that task to three hours. Id. Finally, the
R&R rejected the District’s arguments that (1) certain entries were vague, (2) certain entries
(e.g., researching and drafting the petition for fees) were clerical in nature, and (3) certain entries
were too remote in time to be compensable. Id. at 11–14. 3 The R&R further recommended that
the rate applied to the work of the plaintiff’s counsel should be the rate that applied at the time
the work was completed, rather than applying the current rate to all of the work claimed. Id. at
Currently pending before the Court is the plaintiff’s timely filed objection to the R&R. In
her objection, the plaintiff argues that the R&R’s conclusions regarding the reasonable hourly
rate and the reasonable number of hours were in error. See Pl.’s Objections to Report &
Recommendation Regarding Att’ys’ Fees (“Pl.’s Objection”), ECF No. 44. For the reasons
discussed below, the Court sustains the plaintiff’s objections and enters judgment that differs
accordingly from that recommended in the R&R.
Normally, when, as here, the Court has referred a non-dispositive pretrial motion to a
Magistrate Judge for decision, a district judge “may modify or set aside any portion of a
magistrate judge’s order . . . found to be clearly erroneous or contrary to law.” LCvR 72.2(c).
This Local Civil Rule is consistent with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(a), which provides
for the referral of a pretrial matter “not dispositive of a party’s claim or defense” to a Magistrate
The District elected not to file any timely objection to the R&R, and therefore it waived its right to appeal from an
Order of this Court adopting the findings and recommendations of the R&R. See LCvR 72.3(b); see also Thomas v.
Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 155 (1985); Charter Oil Co. v. Am. Emp’rs’ Ins. Co., 69 F.3d 1160, 1172 (D.C. Cir. 1995)
(acknowledging that “a failure to object to a magistrate judge’s ruling barred review of that ruling on appeal”).
Judge to “hear and decide,” any part of which a district judge must “modify or set aside” if it is
“clearly erroneous or is contrary to law.” FED. R. CIV. P. 72(a).
The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure further state that a court “may refer a motion for
attorney’s fees to a magistrate judge under Rule 72(b) as if it were a dispositive pretrial matter.”
FED. R. CIV. P. 54(d)(2)(D); see also David v. District of Columbia, 252 F.R.D. 56, 58 (D.D.C.
2008) (noting “the limited jurisdiction granted by Congress to a magistrate judge in Federal
Rules 54(d)(2)(D) and 72(b) to issue a recommendation on a motion for attorneys’ fees”). Rule
72(b), much like Local Civil Rule 72.3, provides that “[t]he district judge must determine de
novo any part of the magistrate judge’s disposition that has been properly objected to,” and
“[t]he district judge may accept, reject, or modify the recommended disposition.” FED. R. CIV. P.
72(b)(3); see also LCvR 72.3(c) (“A district judge shall make a de novo determination of those
portions of a magistrate judge’s findings and recommendations to which objection is
made . . . .”).
The IDEIA permits the parents of a disabled child to recover “reasonable attorneys’ fees”
insofar as they are “a prevailing party.” 20 U.S.C. § 1415(i)(3)(B). “A court’s determination of
the appropriate attorney’s fees, in other words, is based on a two-step inquiry.” Jackson v.
District of Columbia, 696 F. Supp. 2d 97, 101 (D.D.C. 2010). “First, the Court must determine
whether the party seeking attorney’s fees is the prevailing party.” Id. “Second, the court must
determine whether the attorney’s fees sought are reasonable.” Id. There is no dispute in this
action that the plaintiff is a “prevailing party,” and therefore the only question is whether the fees
sought by the plaintiff are reasonable.
“The usual method of calculating reasonable attorney’s fees is to multiply the hours
reasonably expended in the litigation by a reasonable hourly fee, producing the ‘lodestar’
amount.” Bd. of Trs. of Hotel & Rest. Emps. Local 25 v. JPR, Inc., 136 F.3d 794, 801 (D.C. Cir.
1998). “[T]he fee petitioner bears the burden of establishing all elements of his entitlement.” In
re North (Bush Fee Application), 59 F.3d 184, 189 (D.C. Cir. 1995). “But trial courts need not,
and indeed should not, become green-eyeshade accountants. The essential goal in shifting fees
(to either party) is to do rough justice, not to achieve auditing perfection.” Fox v. Vice, 131 S.
Ct. 2205, 2216 (2011). The Court will first address the plaintiff’s objections to the R&R
regarding the reasonable hourly rate, and then the Court will discuss the plaintiff’s objections to
the number of hours reasonably expended.
Reasonableness of the Hourly Fee
“[A] fee applicant’s burden in establishing a reasonable hourly rate entails a showing of
at least three elements: the attorneys’ billing practices; the attorneys’ skill, experience, and
reputation; and the prevailing market rates in the relevant community.” Covington v. District of
Columbia, 57 F.3d 1101, 1107 (D.C. Cir. 1995). “[P]revailing parties must offer evidence to
demonstrate their attorneys’ experience, skill, reputation, and the complexity of the case they
handled.” Id. at 1108. They must also “produce data concerning the prevailing market rates in
the relevant community for attorneys of reasonably comparable skill, experience, and
reputation,” which courts have consistently recognized “is undoubtedly a difficult assessment.”
Id.; see also Blum v. Stenson, 465 U.S. 886, 895 n.11 (recognizing that “determining an
appropriate ‘market rate’ for the services of a lawyer is inherently difficult”). “In order to
demonstrate [the prevailing market rate], plaintiffs may point to such evidence as an updated
version of the Laffey matrix or the U.S. Attorney’s Office matrix, or their own survey of
prevailing market rates in the community.” Covington, 57 F.3d at 1109; see also Save Our
Cumberland Mountains, Inc. v. Hodel, 857 F.2d 1516, 1525 (D.C. Cir. 1988) (“commend[ing]”
the use of the Laffey matrix); Rapu v. D.C. Pub. Sch., 793 F. Supp. 2d 419, 424 (D.D.C. 2011)
(“[T]he Laffey Matrix may demonstrate the prevailing market rate . . . .”).
The vast majority of the plaintiff’s objections to the R&R relate to the reasonableness of
the hourly fee. Primarily, the plaintiff objects that “the Magistrate Judge devoted his analysis to
factors never mentioned by the Court of Appeals in Covington, factors which are almost entirely
speculative.” Pl.’s Objection at 2. The plaintiff argues that the predictions articulated by the
R&R regarding the benefits of imposing a uniform rate at 75% of the standard Laffey rate “are
demonstrably wrong” and “for the most part illogical and inappropriate.” Id. Furthermore, the
plaintiff objects that “the Magistrate Judge considered this case not on its own merits, but as
identical to and part of a group of unrelated and significantly different cases.” Id. Finally, the
plaintiff objects that although “the Magistrate Judge addressed the alleged benefits of uniformity
of decisions [about attorney’s fees] as if it is readily achievable,” he “did not fairly represent the
full body of” opinions within this Court about the use of the Laffey rates in IDEIA cases. Id. at
The appropriate framework for evaluating the reasonableness of an hourly rate for a fee
petition comes from the D.C. Circuit’s decision in Covington. That case, as the R&R noted, lays
out three elements that a petitioner must establish through competent evidence. As both the
Supreme Court and the Circuit have held, “‘[w]hen . . . the applicant for a fee has carried his
burden of showing that the claimed rate and number of hours are reasonable, the resulting
product is presumed to be the reasonable fee contemplated by [the fee-shifting statute].’”
Covington, 57 F.3d at 1109 (quoting Blum, 465 U.S. at 897). Once the petitioner has satisfied
this initial burden, the plaintiff’s rates and hours are “properly accorded a presumption of
reasonableness” and “the Government must either accede to the applicant’s requested rate or
provide specific contrary evidence tending to show that a lower rate would be appropriate.” Id.
at 1110 (quoting Nat’l Ass’n of Concerned Veterans v. Sec’y of Def., 675 F.2d 1319, 1326 (D.C.
Cir. 1982)). In this case, although the R&R briefly summarized the evidence offered by the
plaintiff to satisfy her burden, see R&R at 3–4, the R&R did not conclude one way or the other
whether the plaintiff had satisfied her burden or whether the defendant had succeeded in
rebutting the plaintiff’s evidence. Therefore, the Court will first discuss the burden-shifting
framework articulated in Covington.
The record before the Court establishes that the plaintiff has produced sufficient evidence
to demonstrate the billings practices, skill, experience, and reputation of her counsel, Mr. Tyrka,
and the plaintiff has also submitted evidence sufficient to demonstrate the prevailing market rates
in the community. In a sworn statement submitted in support of the fee petition, Mr. Tyrka
describes his billing practices, as well as his expertise and experience in special education
litigation. See V.S. of Douglas Tyrka (“First Tyrka Statement”) ¶¶ 4–5, 9–11, ECF No. 35-2.
Mr. Tyrka has worked as a litigator since graduating law school in 1998, and he has specialized
in the field of special education law since 2003. Id. ¶ 10. Through 2008, Mr. Tyrka’s firm has
been prolific in the Washington, D.C. special education law community, representing “more than
200 special education cases each year.” Id. ¶ 11. With respect to his billing practices, Mr. Tyrka
avers that his firm “has always matched its hourly rates to those in what is commonly known as
the ‘adjusted Laffey matrix,’” which he says at least some of his clients pay “regardless of
whether reimbursement is ever obtained.” Id. ¶¶ 4–5. Finally, as to prevailing market rates, the
plaintiff has submitted the adjusted Laffey matrix, which provides that rates for an attorney of
Mr. Tyrka’s experience (11–19 years) were $569–$609 from 2009 to 2012, when the relevant
work was performed. See Pl.’s Mot. Ex. 3, ECF No. 35-3; see also Covington, 57 F.3d at 1109
(holding that petitioner may “point to such evidence as an updated version of the Laffey matrix”
to demonstrate the prevailing market rate).
The one potential shortcoming in the plaintiff’s evidence was in establishing “that the
requested rates are in line with those prevailing in the community for similar services by lawyers
of reasonably comparable skill, experience, and reputation.’” Covington, 57 F.3d at 1109
(emphasis added) (quoting Blum, 465 U.S. at 896 n.11). In particular, although Mr. Tyrka’s
sworn statement avers that adjusted Laffey rates “conform to those of attorneys in this
jurisdiction of comparable skill and experience,” First Tyrka Statement ¶ 4, he does not address
whether adjusted Laffey rates conform to the prevailing rates for lawyers who primarily practice
in the field of special education law, or IDEIA law in particular. Ultimately, this is a question of,
inter alia, the complexity of both this case in particular and IDEIA litigation more generally,
which was a major point of contention between the parties during their briefing on the motion for
attorney’s fees and has garnered a wide array of opinions from this Court.
The R&R discussed this issue, noting a simple dichotomy within this Court’s decisions,
stating “[w]here the issues are complex, the full Laffey rate has been awarded,” and “[w]here the
issues are not complex . . . use of the Laffey matrix has not been considered appropriate and
instead, some fraction of the Laffey rate has been awarded.” R&R at 5. The R&R then
discussed at length DCPS’s guidelines for fees in IDEIA cases, noting that the guidelines rely
upon three decisions from this Court 4 to impose the 75% Laffey rate, and concluding that
because DCPS has “expressed its agreement with the decisions of this Court that a rate of 75% of
The three decisions are Cousins v. District of Columbia, No. 11-172, 2012 WL 1439033 (D.D.C. Apr. 26, 2012)
(Kay, Mag. J.), Wright v. District of Columbia, No. 11-384, 2012 WL 79015 (D.D.C. Jan. 11, 2012) (Kay, Mag. J.),
and Rooths v. District of Columbia, 802 F. Supp. 2d 56 (D.D.C. 2011) (Friedman, J.).
Laffey is a fair and just one . . . . it is equally as fair and just for work . . . to be compensated at
that same rate.” 5 Id. at 6–8. The plaintiff is correct, however, that the R&R’s reasoning on this
point does not acknowledge the diversity of opinions within this Circuit on the topic, which the
Court discusses in more detail below. Also, although the R&R recognized that the complexity of
an IDEIA case is a critical factor in determining the appropriate hourly rate in such cases, see
R&R at 5, the R&R did not discuss the complexity of this case or base its recommendation on
that ground. Rather, it appears that, in concluding that 75% of the standard Laffey rate was
appropriate, the R&R presumed that this case was not complex because, as its discussion of the
case law stated, “some fraction of the Laffey rate has been awarded” when “the issues are not
complex.” Id. Therefore, the plaintiff is right to object that although “the Magistrate Judge
determined that the applicability of a version of the Laffey Matrix to IDEA fee disputes turns on
the complexity of the individual case . . . . the Magistrate Judge never considered the issue in this
case.” Pl.’s Objection at 7.
In addition to the question of whether this case was complex, the plaintiff goes further in
objecting to the notion that complexity is a critical consideration at all, arguing that there is a
robust body of case law from this Court “award[ing] fees based on Laffey rates without
addressing the complexity of the individual case.” Id. at 11 (collecting cases). The plaintiff
notes that “[t]hough this is not a matter of a court-wide vote, the majority of judges who have
addressed the question have applied 100% of the USAO Laffey [rates], regardless of the alleged
complexity of the individual case.” Id. at 13. Additionally, the plaintiff contends that “setting
the rate based on complexity” is error because “fees for simple cases are already discounted.” Id.
By this, the plaintiff appears to mean that lawyers like Mr. Tyrka who specialize in IDEIA cases
The R&R was primarily concerned with the question of whether DCPS’s 2012 guidance should apply to invoices
submitted prior to June 1, 2012, see R&R at 7–8—an issue neither party raised and which the Court concludes is not
necessary to decide the plaintiff’s motion.
“bill less for each task than would have a less experienced IDEA litigator,” and thus “the
District asks to double that deduction, to apply lower rates to fewer hours due to supposed
The Laffey Matrix Is the Appropriate Starting Point for Calculating
Attorney’s Fees in IDEIA Cases
First, the Court emphasizes that the award of reasonable attorney’s fees under the IDEIA
is a matter of judicial discretion. See 20 U.S.C. § 1415(i)(3)(B)(i) (authorizing the court to
award attorney’s fees “in its discretion”); accord Fisher v. Friendship Pub. Charter Sch., No. 10886, 2012 WL 3090308, at *1 (D.D.C. July 31, 2012) (“Whether attorney’s fees are ‘reasonable’
is a matter of judicial discretion, the objective measurement of which has divided courts within
the D.C. Circuit.”). The exercise of the Court’s discretion in this case is informed by a number
of considerations, including the fact that “[c]ourts in this district routinely refer to the Laffey
Matrix to determine the reasonableness of requested attorney’s fees in IDEA actions.” B.R. ex
rel. Rempson v. District of Columbia, 802 F. Supp. 2d 153, 164 (D.D.C. 2011) (Urbina, J.);
accord Parks v. District of Columbia, No. 10-1460, 2012 WL 4475681, at *5 (D.D.C. Sept. 28,
2012) (Roberts, J.) (“Many courts find that the Laffey rate is presumptively reasonable.”);
Jackson, 696 F. Supp. 2d at 102 (“[N]umerous judges in this district have applied Laffey rates in
the context of fee awards arising out of IDEA administrative proceedings.”). 6
The defendant argued in its opposition to the motion for attorney’s fees that the plaintiff’s
attempt to justify Laffey rates “compar[es] ‘apples to oranges’” because Laffey rates are reserved
for “complex federal litigation,” but IDEIA cases only involve “routine administrative litigation”
See also; Young v. District of Columbia, No. 11-1041, 2012 WL 4466474, at *5 (D.D.C. Sept. 28, 2012) (Berman
Jackson, J.) (applying Laffey rates to IDEIA litigation); Fisher, 2012 WL 3090308, at *5 (Lamberth, C.J.) (same);
Garvin v. District of Columbia, 851 F. Supp. 2d 101, 107 (D.D.C. 2012) (Walton, J.) (same); A.S. v. District of
Columbia, 842 F. Supp. 2d 40, 49 (D.D.C. 2012) (Rothstein, J.) (same); Cox v. District of Columbia, 754 F. Supp.
2d 66, 76 (D.D.C. 2010) (Kessler, J.) (same); District of Columbia v. Jeppsen, 686 F. Supp. 2d 37, 39 (D.D.C. 2010)
(Leon, J.) (same); Abraham v. District of Columbia, 338 F. Supp. 2d 113, 124 (D.D.C. 2004) (Collyer, J.); Kaseman
v. District of Columbia, 329 F. Supp. 2d 20, 26 (D.D.C. 2004) (Huvelle, J.) (same).
and thus “[t]he prevailing rates for attorneys practicing special education litigation is not
measured by the Laffey Matrix.” Def.’s Opp’n at 3–4. This argument, however, paints with
brushstrokes that are far too broad. It is important to understand that IDEIA cases take a variety
of different litigation paths. Although the defendant focused on the administrative origin of
IDEIA litigation, many IDEIA administrative determinations are also appealed to federal district
court, which come with all of the trappings of any other federal case—often involving the
submission of voluminous administrative records and motions for summary judgment. Even the
administrative component of IDEIA litigation, however, which “typically require[s] testimony
from education experts regarding whether a student has been denied a [FAPE] and the need for
any compensatory educational services,” cannot be dismissed as categorically routine or simple.
See Jackson, 696 F. Supp. 2d at 102. Therefore, the District is incorrect to argue that full Laffey
rates should never be applied to IDEIA litigation. On the contrary, the Laffey rates serve as a
useful and reasonable approximation of the prevailing market rates in the Washington, D.C. area,
and therefore it is appropriate to use Laffey rates as a starting point for determining a reasonable
hourly fee in IDEIA cases. See, e.g., Covington, 57 F.3d at 1109 (“Although fee matrices are
somewhat crude . . . the matrices do provide a useful starting point”); Heller v. District of
Columbia, 832 F. Supp. 2d 32, 45 (D.D.C. 2011) (using Laffey matrix as a “‘starting point’ for its
analysis”); Elec. Privacy Info. Ctr. v. U.S. Dep’t of Homeland Sec., 811 F. Supp. 2d 216, 238
(D.D.C. 2011) (observing that Laffey matrix is “an appropriate baseline for any fee award”);
Rapu, 793 F. Supp. 2d at 424 (using Laffey matrix as “the benchmark for prevailing market rates
in this [IDEIA] case”).
On the other hand, the plaintiff argues too much in suggesting that the Court should
mechanically apply full Laffey rates as a matter of course merely because those rates represent
the prevailing market rates in the community. See Pl.’s Objection at 11–13. “[T]he prevailing
market rate is but one of the elements needed to establish the reasonableness of a billing rate
sought in a fee application,” and therefore “the prevailing rates set forth in the Laffey Matrix
provide merely a starting point for determining the reasonableness of a billing rate.” Jackson,
696 F. Supp. 2d at 104 (emphasis added). The determination of whether a requested rate is
reasonable “must be made in a case by case analysis.” A.S., 842 F. Supp. 2d at 48. Thus,
starting with the presumption that Laffey rates represent the prevailing rates in the community,
the Court must consider the other relevant factors articulated by the Circuit, such as the
attorney’s skill, experience, reputation, billing practices, and expertise, as well as the complexity
of the litigation, to determine what rate is reasonable for this particular case. See Covington, 57
F.3d at 1107–08. Additionally, in line with Supreme Court precedent, the Court will consider
whether the fees sought are “adequate to attract competent counsel.” Blum, 465 U.S. at 893–94
(citing S. Rep. No. 94-1011, at 6 (1976)).
Full Laffey Rates Are Justified in This Case
The Court will now discuss the myriad factors relevant to determining what a reasonable
fee is for the services performed by Mr. Tyrka in the instant action. For the reasons discussed
below, the Court concludes that the full amount of the standard Laffey rate is a reasonable hourly
fee for this case.
At the outset, the Court discusses a consideration in the attorney’s fees calculus that often
goes unsung in the context of IDEIA litigation, which is the valuable expertise that the special
education bar brings to the resolution of IDEIA cases. IDEIA law can, at times, be remarkably
complicated, and all parties involved—the District of Columbia, the Court, and most importantly
the children and their families directly affected by the statute’s provisions—benefit from the
expertise that specialized IDEIA counsel bring to bear upon these cases. Yet, far more than
specialized legal knowledge is required to be an effective IDEIA lawyer. As one court in this
Circuit has observed:
[I]n order to handle special education cases effectively, counsel must know far
more than IDEA law in order to cope with the obstructive and delaying practices
of DCPS. Sad to say, to be effective—i.e., to get services, education, and
treatment for their young clients—it is essential that counsel understand the
bureaucratic workings of that system, know competent and caring individuals in
that system who can break logjams and obtain necessary evaluations, reports, and
materials, and then assure provision of whatever FAPE is deemed appropriate. To
accomplish this goal takes diligence, perseverance, persuasiveness, and
negotiating and inter-personal skills—as well as the traditional legal skills
expected of any competent lawyer.
Cox, 754 F. Supp. 2d at 76. Mr. Tyrka is no exception to this rule. As indicated by his sworn
statement, for nearly ten years he has dedicated 95% of his practice to special education law,
which has included over 1,000 IDEIA administrative cases and 20 IDEIA federal cases. See
First Tyrka Statement ¶ 10.
The Supreme Court has acknowledged that “the special skill and experience of counsel
should be reflected in the reasonableness of the hourly rates” because “the experience and special
skill of the attorney will require the expenditure of fewer hours than counsel normally would be
expected to spend on a particularly novel or complex issue.” Blum, 465 U.S. at 898. The
plaintiff makes this precise point in her objection to the R&R. See Pl.’s Objection at 13. The
above principle fully applies to IDEIA litigation, where the expertise of counsel undoubtedly
results in less time being billed than would be billed by a general practitioner. Since fewer hours
are billed, the hourly rate must be concomitantly increased to ensure that the resulting fee award
is not unreasonably low. See, e.g., Blum at 897 (cautioning that “there may be circumstances in
which the basic standard of reasonable rates multiplied by reasonably expended hours results in a
fee that is either unreasonably low or unreasonably high”).
The District’s Track Record of Refusing Full and Timely Payment
of Attorney’s Fees
Mr. Tyrka’s continued dedication to IDEIA cases is all the more impressive considering
the evidence the plaintiff has submitted regarding the acute financial challenges currently faced
by special education lawyers in the District of Columbia. Sworn statements by Mr. Tyrka and
one of his former associates, Nicholas Ostrem, which have gone unrebutted by the defendant,
reveal that the District of Columbia habitually avoids paying attorney’s fees to victorious counsel
at all costs. See V.S. of Douglas Tyrka (“Second Tyrka Statement”), ECF No. 44-1; V.S. of
Nicholas Ostrem (“Ostrem Statement”), ECF No. 44-2. In particular, Mr. Tyrka avers that, since
submitting bills to the District of Columbia for 232 IDEIA administrative cases from July 2007
to December 2008, the District failed to pay any amount toward 73 of those bills (31%), and the
District only made partial payment for 125 of those bills (54%), leaving a meager 15% that were
paid in full. See Second Tyrka Statement ¶¶3–13. Additionally, the District has “made no
payments to [Tyrka] since June 2011 except as ordered by a court,” and when the District had
made partial payments without a court order in the past, those payments were only for
approximately one-third of the amounts originally billed, on average. See id. ¶¶ 15, 17. Perhaps
most disturbing, Mr. Tyrka states that, although he has obtained 21 court orders directing the
District to make payments for attorney’s fees since November 2011, 13 of those orders remain
wholly unpaid despite the fact that the deadlines for payment directed by the court have all
lapsed. See id. ¶ 16.
The plaintiff’s evidence also establishes that the District’s pattern of avoiding payment
for attorney’s fees has left IDEIA litigators practicing in this jurisdiction with some difficult
choices. Mr. Tyrka states that in 2009, “having received no payments from DCPS in more than a
year,” he was forced to lay off his firm’s entire staff and close his firm’s offices. See id. ¶ 24.
Since that time, Mr. Tyrka has functioned primarily as a solo practitioner. Id. What is more, the
plaintiff’s evidence indicates that this problem extends beyond Mr. Tyrka. One of the associates
laid off by Mr. Tyrka was Mr. Ostrem, who now works for Brown & Associates—“the largest
firm in the District whose practice is solely special education.” Ostrem Statement ¶¶ 3, 5, 8.
Brown & Associates has encountered similar obstinance from the District regarding the payment
of attorney’s fees: DCPS “has routinely failed to timely process and/or pay the invoices
submitted by Brown & Associates, often times failing to process and/or make payment at all,”
and as a result the firm has 14 separate cases in this Court seeking payment for attorney’s fees
from the District, which represent 369 individual invoices. Id. ¶¶ 9–10. Additionally, the
District inexplicably “stopped processing and/or paying all invoices submitted by Brown &
Associates” in February 2012, which has resulted in the firm losing half of its 800 clients and the
firm having to lay off two-thirds of its staff. See id. ¶¶ 13, 15–17. 7
The Court reviews this disgraceful state of affairs for two reasons. First, the plaintiff’s
evidence reveals that the R&R’s well-intentioned and logical assumptions about the benefits of
endorsing a lower, but uniform, hourly rate for IDEIA cases, unfortunately do not reflect reality
in this jurisdiction. For example, it is likely wishful thinking to hope that if victorious parties in
IDEIA cases were uniformly awarded 75% of standard Laffey rates, the District would promptly
settle and pay fee petitions in such cases. See R&R at 9. It is also likely nothing more than an
academic exercise to assume that an IDEIA litigator will be able to secure attorney’s fees from
the District “at the rate of several thousand dollars per day,” R&R at 10, because such a result
would require that the District pay invoices in full and on time.
The plaintiff’s evidence also reveals that an investigation conducted by the District’s own Office of the State
Superintendent of Education (“OSSE”) concluded that, during a one-year period in which DCPS entered into 401
settlement agreements regarding attorney’s fees in IDEIA cases, DCPS waited more than 120 days to effect payment
in at least 72 of those cases (18%). See Pl.’s Objection Ex. 3, at 1, ECF No. 44-3.
Additionally, the District’s apparent behavior highlights the well-established principle
that “a ‘reasonable’ fee is a fee that is sufficient to induce a capable attorney to undertake the
representation of a meritorious . . . case.” Perdue v. Kenny A. ex rel. Winn, 130 S. Ct. 1662,
1672 (2010). À propos to this principle, the plaintiff observes that, due to the District’s practices
regarding the payment of attorney’s fees in IDEIA cases, IDEIA litigators “are quickly becoming
extinct,” which is supported by the evidence of the financial hardship faced by IDEIA litigators
in this jurisdiction. Pl.’s Objection at 11. Although the defendant quickly rejects the plaintiff’s
evidence as a “doomsday scenario” that is “not worthy of a response” and a sideshow designed
to “distract from the actual issue in this case,” Def.’s Reply to Pl.’s Objection to R&R (“Def.’s
Objection Reply”) at 4, ECF No. 45, the Court finds the plaintiff’s evidence not only troubling
but relevant to the fee inquiry in this case because the District’s consistently dismal track record
compels the conclusion that higher fees may need to be awarded in IDEIA cases in order to
ensure that competent counsel continues to be attracted to IDEIA litigation.
Complexity of the Litigation
Finally, the Court will discuss the factor to which courts in this district have typically
devoted the lion’s share of their analysis in IDEIA attorney’s fee disputes: the complexity of the
litigation. The Supreme Court and the D.C. Circuit have identified the complexity of the
litigation as a relevant consideration in awarding reasonable attorney’s fees. See, e.g.,
Pennsylvania v. Del. Valley Citizens’ Council for Clean Air, 478 U.S. 546, 565 (1986) (holding
that “[t]he ‘novelty [and] complexity of the issues’” should be “fully reflected” in a reasonable
fee award); Covington, 57 F.3d at 1108. In the context of IDEIA cases specifically, decisions
from this Circuit have identified a number of indicia of complexity, such as (1) the length of the
administrative hearing; (2) the number of documents and witnesses presented at the
administrative hearing; (3) the amount of discovery required; (4) the presence of novel legal
issues; (5) the quantity of briefing required; and (6) the use of expert testimony. See, e.g., Parks,
2012 WL 4475681, at *6; Fisher, 2012 WL 3090308, at *5; Garvin, 851 F. Supp. 2d at 106–07;
Agapito v. District of Columbia, 525 F. Supp. 2d 150, 152 (D.D.C. 2007).
The instant action, unlike most IDEIA fee-dispute cases, involved substantive disputes at
both the administrative level and the federal level. The plaintiff was denied relief at the
administrative level and essentially appealed that determination to this Court. See Compl. ¶ 10.
As a result, in assessing the complexity of this case, the Court must consider both aspects of the
litigation. The administrative portion of the litigation was of only modest complexity. At the
administrative stage, Mr. Tyrka’s work involved the filing of a three-page due process
complaint; submitting a three-page pre-hearing memorandum and a three-page opposition
memorandum; and attending a two-hour hearing at which only two witnesses testified and only
eighteen total documents were submitted. See Admin. Record (“AR”) at 4–10, 120–22, 136–39,
146–258, ECF Nos. 7-1, 7-3 to 7-7. Although only two witnesses testified at the administrative
hearing, it bears noting that one of the witnesses was a special education advocate, called by the
plaintiff, who was qualified as “an expert on the development of IEPs and the development of
compensatory education plans.” Pl.’s Mem. in Supp. of Mot. for Summ. J. (“Pl.’s Summ. J.
Mem.”) at 7, ECF No. 8. All of this resulted in a six-page, single-spaced Hearing Officer’s
Determination (“HOD”). See AR at 4–10.
Although the administrative portion of this case lasted only about two and one-half
months, the case lasted much longer in its entirety. Once the action was filed in this Court, the
parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment regarding the merits of the plaintiff’s IDEIA
claims. See ECF Nos. 8, 11. Additionally, after the Court granted summary judgment to the
plaintiff, the defendant filed a motion for reconsideration, and the plaintiff filed a motion to
substitute, which required two more rounds of briefing. See ECF Nos. 23–25, 30–31. These
four motions, altogether, resulted in a seventeen-page Report and Recommendation, see ECF No.
21, and a fourteen-page Memorandum Opinion, see ECF No. 32; see also Brooks, 841 F. Supp.
2d 253. The defendant’s motion for reconsideration was particularly noteworthy because it
required the parties to address an issue of first impression within this Circuit regarding whether a
former student retains the right to seek compensatory education under the IDEIA. See Brooks,
841 F. Supp. 2d at 258–60. From start to finish, beginning with the administrative due process
complaint and ending with the Court’s Order on the motion for reconsideration, it took over two
years for the plaintiff to obtain the relief that she sought.
In sum, even though the administrative portion of this case was largely routine, the action
in its totality was not uncomplicated. Courts have often discounted the standard Laffey rates in
IDEIA cases that only “involve a routine administrative proceeding,” and if that were all that
was involved in the instant action, a similar discount might be warranted. See, e.g., Flores v.
District of Columbia, 857 F. Supp. 2d 15, 21 (D.D.C. 2012). The large majority of this action,
however, has been litigated in federal court, and the case contains sufficient indicia of
complexity—including (1) the preparation and presentation of an expert witness; (2) the filing of
four motions, including two motions for summary judgment; and (3) a question of first
impression under the IDEIA—to conclude that a discount from the Laffey rate would be
inappropriate. 8 See, e.g., Jeppsen, 686 F. Supp. 2d at 39 (applying full Laffey rates where “the
fees incurred in this case arise exclusively from federal litigation”).
In light of the above discussion, the Court concludes that the plaintiff has carried her
burden of establishing the reasonableness of the full amount of the Laffey rate, and the defendant
This conclusion is further supported by the fact that the plaintiff’s evidence of complexity has gone unrebutted by
any evidence from the defendant other than its repeated and categorical assertion that IDEIA litigation is routine,
simple, and undeserving of Laffey rates.
has failed to rebut the “presumption of reasonableness” with “specific contrary evidence.” See
Covington, 57 F.3d at 1109–10 (quoting Nat’l Ass’n of Concerned Veterans, 675 F.2d at 1326).
Therefore, the Court concludes that the full amount of the Laffey rate is a reasonable hourly fee
in this action, contrary to the conclusion reached in the R&R.
The two remaining issues that the Court must resolve with regard to the hourly fee are
(1) whether the standard Laffey rate or the adjusted Laffey rate should apply and (2) whether the
plaintiff should receive the Laffey rate that applied at the time the work was completed or the
current Laffey rate.
Standard vs. Adjusted Laffey Rates
As discussed above, the difference between the two Laffey matrices is that the standard
Laffey matrix grows at the rate of general cost-of-living inflation for the Washington, D.C.
metropolitan area, as indicated in the Consumer Price Index (“CPI”) for Washington, D.C. See
supra note 2. The adjusted Laffey matrix, on the other hand, grows at the rate of inflation in the
legal services component of the national CPI. See id. Deciding which matrix to apply presents a
“difficult issue” because, while the standard Laffey matrix “has the distinct advantage of
capturing the data which is specific to the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, as opposed to
the [adjusted] Laffey index, which relies on [CPI] data from all over the country,” the adjusted
Laffey matrix “has the distinct advantage of capturing the more relevant data because it is based
on the legal services component of the [CPI] rather than the general CPI on which the [standard
Laffey] matrix is based.” Salazar, 123 F. Supp. 2d at 14–15.
The parties have neither briefed this issue nor presented evidence regarding which Laffey
matrix would be appropriate, and the R&R did not analyze this issue either. Since the plaintiff
bears the burden of justifying the reasonableness of the fee requested, however, the absence of
evidence on this issue necessarily militates in favor of awarding the plaintiff the lower of the two
rates. As a result, the Court will, in line with the R&R, award the plaintiff the standard Laffey
rate, rather than the adjusted Laffey rate.
Current Laffey Rate vs. Laffey Rate at the Time Work Was
The final issue presented regarding the appropriate hourly rate to apply is whether the
plaintiff should receive the Laffey rate that applied at the time the work was completed or the
current Laffey rate. The R&R recommended that the Court use the rate that applied at the time
the work was completed. See R&R at 6–7. The plaintiff objects, however, that this
recommendation was error because “current rates are typically paid for all work to account for
the delay in payment.” Pl.’s Objection at 14 (citing Missouri v. Jenkins, 491 U.S. 274, 284
(1989) and Copeland v. Marshall, 641 F.2d 880, 893 n.23 (D.C. Cir. 1980) (en banc)). The
Supreme Court has held that “compensation received several years after the services were
rendered . . . is not equivalent to the same dollar amount received reasonably promptly as the
legal services are performed,” and therefore “an appropriate adjustment for delay in payment—
whether by the application of current rather than historic hourly rates or otherwise—is within the
contemplation of [fee-shifting] statute[s].” Jenkins, 491 U.S. at 283–84. The D.C. Circuit has
endorsed a similar approach. See Copeland, 641 F.2d at 893 (“A percentage adjustment to
reflect the delay in receipt of payment therefore may be appropriate.”).
The services provided by Mr. Tyrka in this action were rendered between September
2009 and March 2012. See Pl.’s Mot. Ex. 1. Therefore, for some of these services,
compensation will be received, if at all, “several years after the services were rendered.”
Jenkins, 491 U.S. at 283. More fundamentally, however, the economic premise behind the
Supreme Court’s holding in Jenkins and the D.C. Circuit’s holding in Copeland was that it is
only fair to award attorneys the present value of the services that they rendered. As the Circuit
noted in Copeland, “payment today for services rendered long in the past deprives the eventual
recipient of the value of the use of the money in the meantime, which use, particularly in an
inflationary era, is valuable.” 641 F.2d at 893. The defendant has presented no authority, legal
or economic, that would contradict the Circuit’s rationale in Copeland, and therefore the Court
will award the plaintiff the current Laffey rate for services rendered. See also Fisher, 2012 WL
3090308, at *5 (awarding current Laffey rates where “defendant feebly trie[d] to distinguish
[Jenkins and Copeland],” but “fail[ed] to meaningfully do so and further fail[ed] to cite any legal
authority to the contrary”).
In summary, the Court concludes that the standard Laffey rate, commensurate with Mr.
Tyrka’s legal experience (11–19 years), is a reasonable fee for the plaintiff to recover in this
case. Furthermore, the Court concludes that the plaintiff should be awarded the current Laffey
rate, rather than the Laffey rate that applied at the time the work was performed. Therefore, the
reasonable hourly rate that will apply in the lodestar calculation will be $445 per hour, rather
than the $307.50–$326.25 proposed in the R&R. See Pl.’s Reply to Def.’s Opp’n to Mot. for
Fees & Costs Ex. 2, ECF No. 39-2 (setting forth standard Laffey matrix).
Hours Reasonably Expended
Having determined the reasonable hourly fee that will apply, the Court must now address
the plaintiff’s objections to the R&R regarding the number of hours reasonably expended.
“To satisfy the burden of showing that the hours claimed were reasonably expended on a
case, a petitioner must submit ‘sufficiently detailed information about the hours logged and the
work done,’ and ‘it is insufficient to provide the . . . Court with very broad summaries of work
done and hours logged.” Am. Petroleum Inst. v. EPA, 72 F.3d 907, 915 (D.C. Cir. 1996)
(quoting Nat’l Ass’n of Concerned Veterans, 675 F.2d at 1327). The fee application, however
“need not present ‘the exact number of minutes spent nor the precise activity to which each hour
was devoted nor the specific attainments of each attorney.’” Nat’l Ass’n of Concerned Veterans,
675 F.2d at 1327 (quoting Copeland, 641 F.2d at 891). “The touchstone inquiry is whether the
time expended on particular tasks was reasonable. Parties cannot be reimbursed for
nonproductive time or duplicative activities. However, contests over fees should not be
permitted to evolve into exhaustive trial-type proceedings.” Martini v. Fed. Nat’l Mortg. Ass’n,
977 F. Supp. 482, 487 (D.D.C. 1997) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). As one
Judge from this Circuit has stated in the context of fee petitions, “[n]either broadly based, illaimed attacks, nor nit-picking claims by the Government should be countenanced.” Nat’l Ass’n
of Concerned Veterans, 675 F.2d at 1338 (Tamm, J., concurring).
In the instant action, the plaintiff has presented a reasonably detailed itemization of the
tasks that Mr. Tyrka performed and for which the plaintiff seeks attorney’s fees. See Pl.’s Mot.
Ex. 1. The itemization seeks payment for 71 total hours of work performed exclusively by Mr.
Tyrka. See id. The R&R proposed two specific reductions from this total, to which the plaintiff
objects. First, the R&R docked the 13.75 hours spent by Mr. Tyrka in researching, outlining,
drafting, and filing the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment, noting that, “[a]part from the
facts, the procedural history of plaintiff’s case . . ., and Tyrka’s legal argument . . . , the statutory
framework of the IDEA and the standards governing summary judgment are the same for every
one of Tyrka’s clients.” R&R at 12. Therefore, the R&R concluded that “the research and
drafting of plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment could have been performed in less time by
an attorney with Tyrka’s experience,” and recommended “that plaintiff be compensated for only
8.0 hours for this task, rather than the 13.75 hours sought.” Id. at 11–12. Second, the R&R
deconstructed the 6.5 hours charged for drafting and preparing the plaintiff’s petition for
attorney’s fees, concluding that “this petition is the same for every one of Tyrka’s clients” and
thus “it should not have taken an attorney with Tyrka’s legal experience . . . 6.5 hours to
complete.” Id. at 13. As a result, the R&R proposed that the hours charged for that task “be
reduced to 3 hours.” Id.
The plaintiff objects to both of these proposed reductions. With respect to the motion for
summary judgment, the plaintiff complains that the R&R improperly characterized the statement
of material facts contained in the motion for summary judgment as “simple or boilerplate.” Pl.’s
Objection at 14. The plaintiff contends that “[t]he statement of material facts is arguably the
most important part of a summary judgment motion,” and therefore “its production requires a
careful examination of the entire record.” Id. at 14–15. Furthermore, the plaintiff calculates that
the summary judgment brief contained “6 pages of simple work and 15 pages of more
complicated work,” which yield a billing rate of approximately “49 minutes per substantive
page.” Id. at 15. The plaintiff submits that this “is an extremely good pace.” Id. The plaintiff
offers a much briefer defense of Mr. Tyrka’s charges related to the fee petition, arguing only that
the 6.5 hours billed are reasonable because the plaintiff “made no claim for the work performed
on the 9-page Reply regarding fees, the large majority of which was specific to this case.” Id. In
other words, the 6.5 hours billed encompasses both the petition for fees as well as the reply in
further support of that petition.
The Court agrees with the plaintiff that the hours sought for Mr. Tyrka’s work on the
plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment and petition for fees was reasonable. In this regard, the
Court heeds the words of the Supreme Court that “trial courts need not, and indeed should not,
become green-eyeshade accountants” when it comes to determining the reasonableness of fee
petitions. Fox, 131 S. Ct. at 2216. The goal in shifting fees, the Supreme Court reminds us, “is
to do rough justice, not to achieve auditing perfection.” Id. The R&R may be correct that it
would have been possible for an attorney of Mr. Tyrka’s experience and skill to complete these
tasks in a shorter amount of time, but such an exacting scrutiny of an attorney’s bill is akin to a
quest for “auditing perfection,” rather than the more appropriate goal of “do[ing] rough justice.”
Id. The hours sought by the plaintiff are not excessive, and therefore the Court sustains the
plaintiff’s objections to the R&R’s proposal to reduce the hours charged for both tasks.
To summarize, the Court sustains the plaintiff’s objections to the Report and
Recommendation and concludes that (1) the current (i.e., 2012–13) rates contained in the
standard Laffey matrix are reasonable and (2) the hours itemized by the plaintiff in her petition
for fees are also reasonable. Therefore, the plaintiff shall be awarded attorney’s fees for 71 hours
of work at a rate of $445 per hour, totaling $31,595. The plaintiff shall also be awarded the
undisputed amount of $350 for the cost of the federal filing fee in this action, bringing the total
award of fees and costs to $31,945. Finally, the Court adopts all other recommendations of the
An Order consistent with this Memorandum Opinion will be filed contemporaneously.
Date: December 17, 2012
Beryl A. Howell
BERYL A. HOWELL
United States District Judge
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