A federal judge has granted, in part, a motion for attorneys’ fees filed by attorneys representing a group of plaintiffs, who successfully sued a school district for violating Title IX.
In making its ruling without oral argument, the court awarded the attorneys close to $300,000.
The impetus for the litigation was the district’s 30-year practice of providing two on-campus baseball fields for the boys’ varsity and junior varsity/freshman teams, while the girls’ softball teams were routinely shuffled around various off-campus locations to practice and play their “home” games.
As a result of the district’s practice, the plaintiffs filed a lawsuit and sought a preliminary injunction. On August 20, 2007, the Court granted the motion and ordered the parties to make a good faith effort to agree upon the precise form of relief to be granted.
The parties failed to reach an agreement, prompting the court’s intervention. On September 19, 2007, it ordered that “by the start of the 2008 softball season, the district shall construct a dedicated girls’ softball field on the current location of the boys’ junior varsity/freshman baseball field. The field will be of the same quality and have all of the same amenities as the existing boys’ varsity baseball field.”
The court noted that from December 2007 through approximately April 2008 that the plaintiffs filed “a number of ex parte applications charging the defendants with failing to comply with the order. The defendants opposed each of the applications. The issues were eventually resolved, and on April 28, 2008, the parties jointly moved to extend the deadline for completing the renovations to the softball field to June 30, 2008. On April 28, 2008, the court granted the joint motion. On October 14, 2008, the plaintiffs filed the attorneys’ fee motion.
The governing legal standard for the motion is 42 U.S.C. § 1988, which allows a court to award attorneys’ fees to the prevailing party in an action brought to enforce constitutional rights or the provisions of Title IX.
In delving into the specifics of the attorneys’ argument, the court found, for example, that the hourly rates were reasonable. “Not only have the plaintiffs provided the Court with a supporting declaration that confirms the reasonableness of the rates, (but) the defendants have failed to meet their burden of rebutting Plaintiffs’ evidence. Furthermore, based on the Court’s knowledge of the San Diego market, the Court believes the rates to be reasonable given the experience of the attorneys involved.”
The court was less generous, however, when examining the time spent on media communications. “Time spent promoting and discussing a client’s case with the local media may be compensable when it is directly connected to the success of the client’s claims,” it wrote. But in the instant case, that time with the media did not contribute “directly and substantially” to the plaintiff’s case,” and this “is not compensable.”
Karen R. Hess, et al. v. Ramona Unified School District, et al.; S.D..Cal.; CASE NO.07-CV-0049 W (CAB), 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 102743; 12/19/08
Attorneys of Record: (for plaintiff) Elizabeth J Arleo, LEAD ATTORNEY, Arleo Law Firm, PLC, Ramona, CA; Leonard B Simon, LEAD ATTORNEY, The Law Offices of Leonard B. Simon, San Diego, CA; Daniel R Shinoff, Stutz Artiano Shinoff and Holtz, San Diego, CA; Julie M Kiehne-Lamkin, Attorney at Law, Ramona, CA. (for defendants) Daniel R Shinoff, Stutz Artiano Shinoff and Holtz, San Diego, CA; Gil Abed, Patricia Michelle Coady, Stutz Artiano Shinoff and Holtz, San Diego, CA.