The opinion of the court was delivered by: Stephen N. Limbaugh, Jr.united States District Judge
This matter was brought by the petitioner pursuant to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, Nov. 19, 1980, 19 I.L.M. 1501 (hereinafter the "Hague Convention") and the International Child Abduction Remedies Act ("ICARA"), 42 U.S.C. § 11601-11. Petitioner sought the return of his minor children, who were brought to the United States by respondent. On September 1, 2010, and in subsequent orders, the Court ordered the return of the minor children to Panama, their country of habitual residence (#38, #41, #53). The Court also ordered that the respondent pay the petitioner's necessary expenses, including legal fees, court costs, and transportation costs, as provided by Hague Conventional Article 26, 42 U.S.C. § 11607(b)(3) (#39). Petitioner has since supplemented his request for attorneys' fees and costs (#42); respondent has filed a response (#49), and petitioner has replied (#51).
The Court notes that respondent had not previously had an opportunity to brief the issue of attorneys' fees, as her Proposed Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, Order and Judgment (#37) naturally did not include argument pertaining to attorneys' fees and costs because it presupposed that she prevailed.
Thus, although the Court acknowledges that the petitioner is entitled to substantial fees and costs, the Court will review all the petitioner's submissions and the respondent's arguments in response at this time.
The Hague Convention and ICARA provide for an award of attorneys' fees and costs as follows:
Any court ordering the return of the child pursuant to an action brought under § 11603 of this Title shall order the Respondent to pay necessary expenses incurred by or on behalf Petitioner, including courts costs, legal fees, foster home or other care during the course of proceedings in the action, and transportation costs related to the return of the child, unless Respondent establishes that such order would be clearly inappropriate.
42 U.S.C. § 11607(b)(3). Courts have been careful to delineate what is authorized and not authorized by the statute. For example, though legal fees and necessary costs for counsel representing a party in the district court are reimbursable, neither fees for consultants nor experts not testifying in person nor fees for counsel in the home country who did not represent a party in the action before this Court are reimbursable under the statute. Freier v. Freier, 985 F. Supp. 710, 714 (E.D. Mich. 1997); see also Distler v. Distler, 26 F. Supp. 2d 723, 727 (D.N.J. 1998) (permitting petitioner to recover fees for work by foreign counsel for necessary work related to Hague Convention matter, but not for any fees for work related to custody litigation in the petitioner's home country).
Petitioner requests a total of $43,204.34 be awarded to him in fees and costs. The Court will award petitioner $18,160.67 of those requested fees and costs.
A. Panamanian Legal Fees and Costs
Petitioner requests $11,000 in "legal" and "custody" fees from three different Panamanian law firms. As already discussed, none of those attorneys represented petitioner in the action before this court. To the extent they were consultants, none testified before this Court. As a result, none of those fees are reimbursable to petitioner.
Petitioner also requests $750.00 for an "authorized translator." Petitioner does not identify the translator nor what "authorized" the translator or how the expense was necessary. Court-appointed interpreter costs would be recoverable, Freier, 985 F. Supp. at 713, but that is not the case here. Thus, that cost is not recoverable.
Petitioner requests $500.00 in "investigation fees." Because petitioner has not shown the basis or nature of these fees or how they were a "necessary expense" related to the ...