What is an Action?
The District of Columbia Appropriations Act of 2005 limites the amount of attorneys' fees that the District may pay to private parties in IDEA cases to $4,000 per action. The question arose as to whether an appeal in the district court is part of the same action as the administrative proceeding for purposes of the fee-shifting provision of IDEA.
The District Court held for the parents, but on appeal, the DC Circuit held that the administrative hearing and the judicial review comprise a unitary action for purposes of the fee-shifting provision. This means that while the district court can award an amount in excess of the cap, the District can only make payment of $4,000, at most.
This ruling undercuts the fee shifting provision of IDEA with respect to cases commenced in the District of Columbia. It is likely to have an effect on the kind of representation that a parent can obtain in such cases.
The decision in Jester v. Government of the District of Columbia can be found here.