District Judge David N. Hurd
Disability Rights New York (DRNY) is the state’s designated protection and advocacy system for the disabled. In 2016 it was granted partial judgment in its suit alleging defendants improper denial of access to a school to investigate reports of abuse and neglect in the school’s ACS classroom, pursuant to the Protection and Advocacy for Individuals with Mental Illness Act, the Developmental Disabilities and Bill of Rights Act, and the Protection and Advocacy for Individual Rights Act (collectively P&A Statutes). Despite seeking $209,532.75 in attorney fees and $778.78 in costs under 42 USC §1988, the court awarded DRNY $85,853.75 in fees and $778.78 in costs. In addition to finding that four DRNY staff attorneys having less than 10 years experience were entitled to only $175 hourly, the court found the 700 hours expended by DRNY excessive and redundant. Three senior attorneys billed more than 50 hours each, and a significant time was devoted to meetings and communications. DRNY’s lawyers also spent 50 hours drafting and revising its pleadings and 100 hours drafting and revising its motion for summary judgment. Such hours were excessive in light of DRNY’s attorneys’ specialization in disability rights law and familiarity with the P&A Statutes.