United States District Court, C.D. California
LOS ANGELES UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT
Present: Honorable CHRISTINA A. SNYDER Judge
CIVIL ]VIINUTES - GENERAL
PLAEMTIFF'S MOTION FOR ATTORNEYS' FEES (Filed October
10, 2016, Dkt. 50)
MOTION TO STRIKE MATERIAL IN DEFENDANT'S OPPOSITION
(Filed February 27, 2017, Dkt. 64)
PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR ATTORNEYS' FEES
case is, in essence, an appeal of certain findings made by an
Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") regarding
M.S.'s rights under the Individuals with Disabilities
Education Improvement Act ("IDEA"). On September
12, 2016, the Court concluded that "M.S. is the
prevailing party on all issues in this appeal." Dkt. 47
("Merits-Order") at 24. In the Merits-Order, the
Court ordered counsel for M.S. to file a noticed-motion for
attorneys' fees no later than October 10, 2016, id, which
plaintiffs counsel timely filed, dkt. 50 ("Fees
Motion"). On January 30, 2017, defendant filed an
opposition. Dkt. 58. On February 27, 2017, plaintiff filed a
reply. Dkt. 65.
Merits-Order, the Court remanded the matter to the ALJ
"for a determination regarding the appropriate rehef in
hght of the Court's" order. Merits Order at 24. The
parties agree that, to date, the ALJ has not yet made a
determination what relief is appropriate. However, the
ALJ's ruling appears to be relevant to the Fees Motion.
prevailing party for the purpose of awarding attorney's
fees [under the IDEA] is a party which 'succeed[s] on any
significant issue in htigation which achieves some of the
benefit the parties sought in bringing the
suit.'" Parents of Student W. v. Puyallup Sch.
Dist., No. 3, 31 F.3d 1489, 1498 (9th Cir. 1994)
(emphasis added) (quoting Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461
U.S. 424, 433 (1983)). Some courts have held that a favorable
statement of law is not a sufficient basis for awarding
attorneys' fees. See e.g. Counsel v. Dow. 849
F.2d 731, 741 (2d Cir. 1988) (finding that Board of Education
was "fiscally responsible" for education during a
particular period was insufficient where the finding did not
result in compensatory education or other relief). Similarly,
where the student's guardian was offered and refused a
settlement offer, the court cannot award attorneys' fees
if acceptance of the settlement offer would have resulted in
the same or more favorable relief 20U.S.C. §
plaintiffs reply, plaintiff states "if the Court feels
that the ALJ's decision weighs on this fee request, M.S.
respectfully requests that a hearing and decision on the fee
motion be delayed until after the ALJ has issued her
decision." Reply at 3. The Court finds such a delay
appropriate. Because the ALJ has yet to determine what relief
is appropriate here, plaintiffs motion for attorneys'
fees is premature. The Court expresses no opinion regarding
whether the ALJ's ruling necessarily affects the
outcome here or plaintiffs entitlement to recovery of
reasonable attorneys' fees generally. However, this
matter is more prudently resolved after the ALJ has
determined what relief is appropriate.
plaintiffs motion for attorneys' fees is DENIED without
prejudice, subject to renewal once the ALJ has determined the
PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO STRIKE MATERIAL IN DEFENDANT'S
course of briefing plaintiffs motion for attorneys' fees,
a separate dispute has arisen regarding materials contained
in defendant's opposition. On February 27, 2017,
plaintiff filed a motion to strike purportedly confidential
material contained in defendant's opposition. Dkt. 64
("Motion to Strike"). The Motion to Strike contends
that the defendant has improperly filed information from
settlement agreements between plaintiffs counsel's past
clients and the defendant (as well as other school
districts). Specifically, plaintiff seeks to strike two
portions of defendant's opposition memorandum, dkt. 58,
and portions of the Declaration of John O'Connor, dkt.
58-3. Plaintiff contends that the
information in defendant's attorneys' fees
opposition, namely fee settlement amounts and hourly rates
sought by plaintiffs counsel, is subject to confidentiality
provisions of prior settlement agreements and should be
stricken from the record here.
March 6, 2017, defendant filed an opposition. Dkt. 66. Said
opposition inadvertently included the names of plaintiff s
counsel's student-clients in an exhibit. On March 9,
2017, the parties jointly stipulated that defendant's
initial opposition to the motion to strike should be placed
under seal, dkt. 67, which the Court ordered on March 10,
2017, dkt. 70. On March 10, 2017, defendant filed an
opposition to the motion to strike with all students'
names properly redacted. Dkt. 68-1 ("Opp'n to Mot.
to Strike"). Defendant's opposition to the motion to
strike argues, in part, that the settlement and fee
information at issue is derived from invoices and letters
from plaintiffs counsel in relation to those other cases.
Defendant has attached those invoices and letters to its
opposition to the motion to strike. Dkts. 68-2, 68-3, 68-4.
March 13, 2017, plaintiff filed a reply in support of the
motion to strike. Dkt. 69.
Court cannot determine, at this time, whether an exercise of
its inherent power to strike information from defendant's
opposition is appropriate in light of the Court's ruling
in regard to the attorney's fees motion. By placing the
O'Connor declaration under seal for other reasons, see
supra n. 1, the Court has already protected much of the
information at issue from public disclosure. Out of an
abundance of caution, the Court orders that defendant's
opposition memorandum regarding the Fees Motion, dkt. 58,
also be placed under seal. Relatedly, because they contain
the same underlying information and related documents, the
Court also orders that defendant's opposition and
exhibits in support of the opposition to the motion to
strike, dkts. 68-1, 68-2, 68-3, & 68-4, and the ...