* Regulations by Section and Attachment 1 (Analysis of Comments and Changes)
(a) In any action or proceeding brought under section 615 of the Act, the court, in its discretion, may award reasonable attorneys' fees as part of the costs to the parents of a child with a disability who is the prevailing party.
(2) Paragraph (b)(1) of this section does not preclude a public agency from using funds under Part B of the Act for conducting an action or proceeding under section 615 of the Act.
(c) A court awards reasonable attorney's fees under section 615(i)(3) of the Act consistent with the following:
(2) Prohibition of attorneys' fees and related costs for certain services.
(B) The offer is not accepted within 10 days; and
(C) The court or administrative hearing officer finds that the relief finally obtained by the parents is not more favorable to the parents than the offer of settlement.
(ii) Attorneys' fees may not be awarded relating to any meeting of the IEP team unless the meeting is convened as a result of an administrative proceeding or judicial action, or at the discretion of the State, for a mediation described in §300.506 that is conducted prior to the filing of a request for due process under §§300.507 or 300.520-300.528.
(3) Exception to prohibition on attorneys' fees and related costs. Notwithstanding paragraph (c)(2) of this section, an award of attorneys' fees and related costs may be made to a parent who is the prevailing party and who was substantially justified in rejecting the settlement offer.
(4) Reduction of amount of attorneys' fees. Except as provided in paragraph (c)(5) of this section, the court reduces, accordingly, the amount of the attorneys' fees awarded under section 615 of the Act, if the court finds that-
(ii) The amount of the attorneys' fees otherwise authorized to be awarded unreasonably exceeds the hourly rate prevailing in the community for similar services by attorneys of reasonably comparable skill, reputation, and experience;
(iii) The time spent and legal services furnished were excessive considering the nature of the action or proceeding; or
(iv) the attorney representing the parent did not provide to the school district the appropriate information in the due process complaint in accordance with §300.507(c).
(5) Exception to reduction in amount of attorneys' fees. The provisions of paragraph (c)(4) of this section do not apply in any action or proceeding if the court finds that the State or local agency unreasonably protracted the final resolution of the action or proceeding or there was a violation of section 615 of the Act.
(Authority: 20 U.S.C. 1415(i)(3)(B)-(G))
of Comments, Discussions and Changes from Attachment
Comment: Many commenters requested that §300.513 include the provisions from sections 615(i)(3)(D) and (F) of the Act regarding instances where attorneys fees are prohibited or may be reduced. Several commenters also asked that a note be added to state that attorneys' fees may be awarded if an IEP team meeting occurs after a hearing request but before the hearing.
Several commenters requested that the note on hearing officers be deleted, stating that the awarding of attorneys' fees should be left to the courts. One commenter stated that if hearing officers are allowed to award attorneys' fees, they should be trained in, and use, the criteria used by Federal courts in determining attorneys' fees.
One commenter also asked that §300.513(b) be deleted.
Discussion: By inserting all the statutory provisions regarding attorneys' fees into the regulations, most of the suggestions will be adequately addressed and additional clarity will be added.
Based upon the absence of consensus, the Department will continue to allow maximum flexibility to States for structuring the process by which parents who are prevailing parties under Part B of the Act may request attorneys' fees reimbursement.
It is important to maintain paragraph (b)(1) of this section, because the limited Federal resources under the Act should be used to provide special education and related services and not be used to promote litigation of disputes. Further, that paragraph has been modified to make it clear that the prohibition against using Part B funds for attorney's fees also applies to the related costs of a party in an action or proceeding, such as depositions, expert witnesses, settlements, and other related costs. In addition, a new paragraph (b)(2) of this section has been added to clarify that the prohibition in paragraph (b)(1) does not preclude a public agency from using funds under Part B of the Act to conduct an action or preceding under section 615 of the Act, such as the cost of paying a hearing officer and providing the place for conducting the action or proceeding.
In light of the general decision to remove all notes from the final regulations under the Act, the note following this section in the NPRM would be removed. The proposed note was merely intended to suggest that States could choose as a matter of State law to permit hearing officers to award attorneys' fees to parents who are prevailing parties under Part B of the Act, and not to require that they do so, or imply that IDEA would be the source of the authority for granting hearing officers that role. If a State allows hearing officer's to award attorney's fees, requirements regarding training on attorneys fees would be a State matter.
Changes: Paragraph (b) has been revised to prohibit use of funds provided under Part B for related costs. The regulation has been amended to include all of the provisions of section 615(i)(3)(C)-(G) of the Act. The note following this section has been removed.
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These Final Regulations were taken from the Federal Register. They were formatted by Education Development Center, Inc. for the IDEA Practices Web site, a service of the OSEP-funded ASPIIRE and ILIAD IDEA Partnership Projects at The Council for Exceptional Children. The material was transferred to the discover IDEA CD 2002 by the Western Regional Resource Center. Every attempt has been made to faithfully reproduce the original content of the Regulations.