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Ebonie S. v. Pueblo School District 60

United States District Court, D. Colorado

March 22, 2016

EBONIE S., a child, by her mother and next friend, MARY S., Plaintiff,
v.
PUEBLO SCHOOL DISTRICT 60, Defendant. Timekeeper Hourly Rate No. of Hours Total

ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART PLAINTIFF’S MOTIONS FOR ATTORNEYS’ FEES AND COSTS

William J. Martínez United States District Judge

Plaintiff Ebonie S. (“Plaintiff”), by her mother and next friend, Mary S., brought this action in 2009 under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12131 et seq., and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (“§ 504”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 794 et seq., as well as several other claims, against Defendant Pueblo School District 60 (“Defendant”) and several individual defendants, arising out of Defendant’s use of a restraint desk on Plaintiff at school. (ECF No. 4.) On May 3, 2011, the Court granted Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment in part, rejecting five of Plaintiff’s original seven claims and dismissing all individual defendants. (ECF No. 159.) Plaintiff filed an interlocutory appeal, and the Court’s order was affirmed. (ECF Nos. 230, 237.)

After the case was remanded to this Court, a jury trial on Plaintiff’s ADA and § 504 claims against Defendant commenced on March 16, 2015, and a verdict was reached on March 24, 2015. (ECF No. 354.) The jury found in favor of Plaintiff and awarded her damages in the amount of $2, 200, 000. (Id.) Final Judgment was entered on April 24, 2015. (ECF No. 365.) On May 26, 2015, Defendant filed a Notice of Appeal. (ECF No. 371.)

This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff’s Motion for Attorneys’ Fees (“Fee Motion”) (ECF No. 367), and Plaintiff’s Motion for Review of Clerk’s Taxation of Costs (“Cost Motion”) (ECF No. 387).[1] For the reasons set forth below, both motions are granted in part and denied in part.

I. LEGAL STANDARD

“The prevailing party” in an ADA and § 504 case is entitled to recover “a reasonable attorney’s fee, including litigation expenses, and costs.” 42 U.S.C. § 12205; see 29 U.S.C. § 794a(b). However, a party seeking such an award must demonstrate that the fees she seeks are reasonable, and the Court is obligated to closely scrutinize the reasonableness of such awards. See Mann v. Reynolds, 46 F.3d 1055, 1062 (10th Cir. 1995). Therefore, counsel must make a good faith effort to exclude hours or expenses that are “excessive, redundant or otherwise unnecessary.” Hensley v. Eckerhart, 461 U.S. 424, 434 (1983). “Moreover, hours that are not properly billed to one’s client are not properly billed to one’s adversary pursuant to statutory authority.” Mann, 46 F.3d at 1063 (internal quotation marks omitted; emphasis in original).

Generally, the starting point for any calculation of a reasonable attorneys’ fee is the “lodestar, ” that is, the number of hours reasonably expended multiplied by a reasonable hourly rate. Hensley, 461 U.S. at 433; Malloy v. Monahan, 73 F.3d 1012, 1017-18 (10th Cir. 1996). To determine the number of hours reasonably expended, the Court reviews counsel’s billing entries to ensure that counsel exercised proper billing judgment. Case v. Unified Sch. Dist. No. 233, 157 F.3d 1243, 1250 (10th Cir. 1998). Once the Court determines the lodestar, it may “adjust the lodestar upward or downward to account for the particularities” of the work performed. Phelps v. Hamilton, 120 F.3d 1126, 1131 (10th Cir. 1997). The Court is not required to reach a lodestar determination in every instance, however, and may simply accept or reduce a fee request within its discretion. Hensley, 461 U.S. at 436-37.

As for the hourly rate, the Tenth Circuit has indicated that “the court must look to ‘what the evidence shows the market commands for civil rights or analogous litigation.’” Burch v. La Petite Academy, Inc., 10 F. App’x 753, 755 (10th Cir. 2001) (quoting Case, 157 F.3d at 1255). The “local market rate” is usually defined by the state or city in which the case is litigated. Ellis v. Univ. of Kan. Med. Ctr., 163 F.3d 1186, 1203 (10th Cir. 1998) (looking at “the prevailing market rates in the relevant community”); Case, 157 F.3d at 1256 (looking at fees lawyers charge in the area in which the litigation occurs). The burden is on the party seeking fees to provide evidence of the prevailing market rate for similar services by “lawyers of reasonably comparable skill, experience, and reputation” in the relevant community. Ellis, 163 F.3d at 1203.

II. ANALYSIS[2]

Plaintiff’s motions seek attorneys’ fees and costs as a “prevailing party” pursuant to federal statute. (ECF No. 367 at 8; ECF No. 387 at 2.) While Defendant questions Plaintiff’s overall degree of success in this case, Defendant does not dispute that Plaintiff was the prevailing party. (ECF No. 395 at 3, 7.) Accordingly, the parties agree that Plaintiff is entitled to a reasonable award of fees and costs, and the Court must determine the amount of that award.

A. Attorneys’ Fees

Plaintiff calculates her lodestar at $1, 161, 111.50, based on her attorneys’ hourly rates multiplied by their respective number of hours billed, as follows.

Timekeeper

Hourly Rate

No. of Hours

Total

HOLLAND & HART

Maureen Witt (partner)

$530

466.3

$247, 059.00

Doug Abbott (of counsel)

$475

510.2

$242, 345.00

Jill Nickerson (paralegal)

$220

162.7

$35, 794.00

Jonathan Bender (partner)

$425

157.2

$66, 810.00

Christina Gomez (partner)

$425

96.5

$41, 012.50

CiCi Cheng (associate)

$250

10.1

$2, 525.00

Clarissa Collier (associate)

$290

32.9

$9, 541.00

Jason Crow (associate)

$295

15.6

$4, 602.00

Anastasia Fainberg (associate)

$225

9

$2, 025.00

Keeya Jeffrey (associate)

$295

10

$2, 950.00

Michael Manning (associate)

$280

51.9

$14, 532.00

Joseph Neguse (associate)

$285

58.2

$16, 587.00

BOUZARI FIRM

Kate Gerland

$285

1, 055.50

$300, 319.50

Louise Bouzari

$285

449.90

$128, 221.50

Margaret Pfleuger

$275

23.10

$6, 352.50

Danna Martin

$150

266.10

$39, 915.00

Desiree Vandelae

$125

0.3

$37.50

Sean Steven

$70

6.90

$483.00


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