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News & Press: Amicus

Attorney Fees Award Upheld in the 9th Circuit

Tuesday, November 27, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Denise Marshall

On November 19, 2018, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a decision in Charis Quatro v. Tehachapi Unified Sch. Dist. affirming the award of the attorney’s fees on behalf of the parent as the prevailing party.  The parent was represented by Andrea Marcus, a longtime COPAA member; Selene Almazan, Alexis Casillas, Catherine Merino Reisman and Ellen Saideman drafted and edited the amicus brief for filing.

 As background, the parent retained an attorney outside of his county of residence to represent his child in a multiday due process hearing with complex legal and factual issues because there was not an attorney with the necessary special education expertise within the parent’s county capable of handling such a matter.  In addition to the difficulty of finding an attorney with the requisite experience to handle a complex disability-related special education matter, the parent also had limited financial means, and therefore, had the additional challenge of locating an experienced attorney willing to undertake representation on a contingency basis.  In a concise opinion on the issue, the Court of Appeal’s decision agreed with the arguments raised in COPAA’s amicus brief in support of the parent to award attorney’s fees for the work done securing the favorable ruling at the parent’s attorney’s typical hourly rate, rather than incurring a drastic reduction of the attorney’s hourly rate, as urged by the school district, merely based upon the average hourly rate of other attorneys practicing in the underrepresented locality.  The case is important particularly for those families who must seek counsel and may not be able to afford fees upfront. A decision to the contrary would have had a chilling effect on attorneys willing to accept cases on contingency.

 

Read the Ninth Circuit decision.

 

Read COPAA’s amicus brief.

 

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