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B.M., A Minor Child By and Through R.M v. Encinitas Union School District

May 11, 2013

B.M., A MINOR CHILD BY AND THROUGH R.M.,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
ENCINITAS UNION SCHOOL DISTRICT,
DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: M. James Lorenz United States District Court Judge

ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR ATTORNEYS' FEES [[doc. #85]

Plaintiff moves for attorneys' fees in the amount of $29,350.80. The motion has been fully briefed and is considered on the papers submitted without oral argument under Civil Local Rule 7.1(d)(1). For the reasons set forth below, the motion will be granted.

Background

On March 4, 2008, plaintiff filed this appeal from an Office of Administrative Hearings ("OAH") decision under the Individuals with Disabilities Education act, 20 U.S.C. § 1400, et.

. In addition to its answer, defendant filed a counterclaim on March 26, 2008, asserting a claim for relief under the IDEA and seeking declaratory and injunctive relief based on plaintiff's alleged breach of the Settlement Agreement entered between plaintiff and his parents and defendant concerning plaintiff's special education programming.

By Order filed January 5, 2009, the Court dismissed the counterclaim noting that "it appears unlikely that counterclaimant can state a claim under the facts it has presented," (Order at 5) but nevertheless granted defendant leave to file an amended counterclaim. Defendant did not file an amended counterclaim.

Ultimately, the Court reviewed the plaintiff's action and found in defendant's favor. Judgment was entered on February 14, 2013. [doc. #82]

Plaintiff now moves for attorneys' fees in connection with the for his successful dismissal of the district's counterclaim. As noted above, defendant opposes the award of attorneys' fees.

Legal Standard

This inquiry has three steps. First, the Court must determine whether Plaintiffs were the prevailing party. If so, the Court then considers whether to grant attorney's fees. If the Court exercises its discretion to grant fees, then the Court must consider what would constitute reasonable attorney's fees.

A. Prevailing Party

The Court must first determine whether plaintiffs were the prevailing party. The Court can then inquire into whether it should exercise its discretion to grant fees, and, if so, determine what would constitute reasonable fees. See, e.g., J.M. v. Capistrano Unified School Dist., 2011 WL 1326905, *2 (C.D. Cal. Mar.31, 2011).

For the purpose of attorneys' fee awards, a prevailing party is defined as "a party which succeeds on any significant issue in litigation which achieves some of the benefit the parties sought in bringing suit." Anaheim Union, 464 F.3d at 1034. A party is "prevailing" where it can "point to a resolution of the dispute which changes the legal relationship between itself and the defendant." Id. ( citing Tex. State Teachers Ass'n v. Garland Indep. Sch. Dist., 489 U.S. 782, 792 (1989)). To be considered a "prevailing party" under a fee shifting provision, such as in the IDEA, the party "must meet two criteria: he must achieve a material alteration of the legal relationship of the parties, and that alteration must be judicially sanctioned." Jankey v. Poop Deck, 537 F.3d 1122, 1129--30 (9th Cir. 2008)."The success must materially alter the parties' legal relationship, cannot be de minimis and must be causally linked to the litigation brought." Van Duyn v. Baker Sch.

., 502 F.3d 811, 825 (9th Cir.2005). "The prevailing party inquiry does not turn on the magnitude of the relief obtained." Id. (citing ...


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