WILLIAMSPORT - Brian Beattie said he did try to hire lawyers in Harrisburg and Williamsport before settling on more expensive representation from the Philadelphia area, but couldn't find the expertise he needed for his lawsuit seeking permission for his seventh-grade daughter to wrestle in the all-male program at Line Mountain School District.

Two firms in Harrisburg and Williamsport "each told me they could not help me because they did not specialize in the area of law that was involved," Beattie wrote in a two-page declaration filed Monday in U.S. Middle District Court in defense of the $140,682 in attorney fees sought from the school district. "When I inquired about whether they could refer me to another lawyer in the Williamsport or Harrisburg region, they each said no because they were unaware of anyone locally with the necessary expertise."

The district has challenged the amount of hours billed and the "ridiculous" fees charged by the Beatties' attorneys. Payment of the fees is the last sticking point in a case that otherwise has been settled.

U.S. District Judge Matthew W. Brann is expected this week to sign a consent order officially ending the dispute and allowing Audriana and other female athletes to wrestle at Line Mountain. As of close of business Tuesday, he had not done so.

Brann on Jan. 13 granted a preliminary injunction sought by the Beatties, which meant the district either had to settle or take the case to trial. It chose the former, with the school board drafting and approving the decree March 25 and forwarding it to Brann.

The battle began last April when the district said Audriana Beattie, who had wrestled for Line Mountain's elementary program, could not wrestle at the junior or senior high levels because of the district's gender-specific policy. Brann on Nov. 1 granted a temporary injunction that allowed Audriana to wrestle during the 2013-14 season while the lawsuit claiming her constitutional rights had been violated made its way through the court.

Local counsel was sought

Brian Beattie said he took steps to obtain local representation after he contacted the office of the state Attorney General and before he filed the original complaint with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.

Beattie was advised to search in the Philadelphia area to find an attorney who could properly help him, and he said he only provided this information to his current lawyers after his wife read in the newspaper that the school district was taking the position that there were other lawyers available in Williamsport that could have worked with them.

"I do not believe that to be the case," Beattie said.

The Beattie family is represented by attorneys Abbe F. Fletman, of Flaster/Greenberg PC, and Terry L. Fromsom, of The Women's Law Project, with assistance from three other attorneys in those firms.

The number of billable hours expended by five Beattie attorneys totaled 337.3. They were at hourly rates of $525 for Fletman, $320 for Nella Bloom and $250 for Joanne Kelley, associates; $450 for Fromson and $230 for Amal Bass, a staff attorney.

The district, which has agreed to pay "reasonable attorneys' fees and costs" to the Beatties, said the hourly rates billed are inconsistent with the prevailing rates of Williamsport, which are between $200 and $325 for partners and between $150 and $200 for associates. They provided four declarations of local attorneys stating their experience in civil rights litigation and their knowledge of services provided by other local attorneys and their rates.