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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

D.C. Circuit reverses award of attorney fees to district

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA v. IJEABUONWU, 09-7092 (D.C. Cir. 6-28-2011): Parent filed a hearing request alleging failure to timely evaluate. District fairly quickly offered a comprehensive independent evaluation. IHO dismissed the hearing request as moot. The District then sued for attorney fees. The District Court awarded fees to the school district. The Circuit Court reversed, finding that

If the District were considered a prevailing party under these circumstances, then DCPS could ignore its legal obligations until parents sue, voluntarily comply quickly, file for and receive a dismissal with prejudice for mootness, and then recover [attorneys'] fees from the parents' lawyers. Straus, 590 F.3d at 902. To allow this practice would deter lawyers from taking IDEA cases and thereby deprive parents of their most effective means of enforcing the statute.

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