Limitation of Attorneys' Fees for Fiscal Years 1999 through 2001

GAO-03-224R: Published: Nov 6, 2002. Publicly Released: Nov 6, 2002.

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Jeanette M. Franzel
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The District of Columbia appropriations acts for fiscal years 1999, 2000, and 2001 limited the amount of appropriated funds that could be paid to an attorney representing a prevailing party in an action brought against the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The appropriations act for fiscal year 2002 lifted the caps on attorneys' fees and directed DCPS and GAO to report on judgments awarding attorneys' fees in excess of the limitations imposed in fiscal years 1999, 2000, and 2001. In May 2002, GAO reported that, for fiscal years 1999, 2000, and 2001, the appropriations acts' limitations had little if any impact on the total amount of attorneys' fees awarded to prevailing parties in judgments entered by the courts in judicial proceedings brought against DCPS and the act. The District's March 29, 2002 report showed that of the $12.7 million paid for attorneys' fees from its appropriations for 1999 through 2001, $10 million was related to administrative proceedings and $2.7 million was related to judicial proceedings. DCPS reported that the estimated total amount of fees that might have been paid as a result of administrative proceedings was $27.4 million over the 3-year period, as compared to $10 million it actually paid.

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