Is It Becoming Near Impossible for a Prevailing Defendant to Collect Its Fees?


Once again, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed a District Court decision granting a prevailing defendant its attorneys' fees and costs.

In R.P. v. Prescott Unifid School District, 09-15651 (9th Cir., Feb. 4, 2011), the parents of an autistic child brought an administrative action under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) against the School District, alleging the District failed to provide their child with free, appropriate public education.

When an administrative law judge ruled against them, the parents appealed to the District Court alleging the same IDEA violations, but also included claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act.

The District Court not only found for the School District, but also found the parents' action both without foundation and brought for an improper purpose, consquently awarding the District its attorneys' fees and costs.

While the Ninth Circuit generally affirmed the substantive portion of the lower court's decision, it reversed the fee award.

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