Morgan Hill Concerned Parents Association v. California Department of Education

Filing 349

ORDER signed by District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller on 3/5/2018 ORDERING the parties to jointly file a status statement 7 days prior to the status conference and DENYING 346 Motion to Stay Discovery as MOOT. (Fabillaran, J)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 11 12 MORGAN HILL CONCERNED PARENTS ASSOC., CONCERNED PARENTS ASSOC., 13 16 ORDER Plaintiffs, 14 15 No. 2:11-cv-3471 KJM AC v. CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, Defendant. 17 18 After carefully considering the parties’ responses to the court’s order to show 19 20 cause, the court STAYS this action until April 20, 2018, resolving the order to show cause, ECF 21 No. 339, and CDE’s pending ex parte application for a stay, ECF No. 346. 22 I. 23 BACKGROUND Plaintiffs Morgan Hill Concerned Parents Association and Concerned Parents 24 Association (“plaintiffs”) allege defendant California Department of Education (“CDE”) is 25 violating its obligations under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 26 504 of the Rehabilitation Act to ensure that all children with disabilities in California receive a 27 “free appropriate public education,” otherwise known as a FAPE. First Am. Compl., ECF No. 6, 28 at 1-2. Plaintiffs allege that CDE is failing to adequately monitor, investigate or enforce the 1 1 provision of FAPE in local school districts. Id. at 2. Plaintiffs seek declaratory and injunctive 2 relief requiring CDE to adopt and implement “a statewide monitoring, investigative and 3 enforcement model that verifiably measures and ensures the provision of FAPE . . . .” Id. at 4. 4 CDE is currently implementing a Corrective Action Plan (CAP) concerning its 5 IDEA monitoring obligations under the supervision of the United States District Court for the 6 Northern District of California. See ECF No. 2330 in Emma C. v. Torlakson, Case No. 3:96-cv- 7 4179 (VC). On November 21, 2017, this court issued an order to show cause why this action 8 should not be stayed pending completion of the remedial proceedings in Emma C. v. Torlakson, 9 Case No. 3:96-cv-4179 (VC) or, in the alternative, why this action should not be transferred to the 10 United States District Court for the Northern District of California for possible relation to 11 Emma C. OSC, ECF No. 339. 12 CDE filed a response on December 12, 2017. CDE Resp., ECF No. 343. That 13 day, plaintiffs also filed a response. Pls.’ Resp., ECF No. 344. Although the parties disagree as 14 to whether a stay is warranted, both agree transfer to the Northern District is inappropriate at this 15 juncture. CDE Resp. at 4-8; Pls.’ Resp. at 15-17. On February 8, 2018, CDE filed an ex parte 16 application to stay discovery pending resolution of the order to show cause, ECF No. 346, which 17 plaintiffs oppose, ECF No. 347. 18 As explained below, the court issues a temporary targeted stay pending a 19 March 26, 2018 hearing in Emma C. The stay, which resolves the pending order to show cause 20 and CDE’s ex parte application, will continue until April 20, 2018, at which time the court will 21 hold a further status conference. 22 I. 23 LEGAL STANDARD “A district court has inherent power to control the disposition of the causes on its 24 docket in a manner to promote economy of time and effort for itself, for counsel, and for 25 litigants.” CMAX, Inc. v. Hall, 300 F.2d 265, 268 (9th Cir. 1962). “A trial court may, with 26 propriety, find it is efficient for its own docket and the fairest course for the parties to enter a stay 27 of an action before it, pending resolution of independent proceedings which bear upon the case.” 28 Lockyer v. Mirant Corp., 398 F.3d 1098, 1111 (9th Cir. 2005) (quoting Levya v. Certified 2 1 Grocers of California, Ltd., 593 F.2d 857, 863 (9th Cir. 1979)); Levya, 593 F.2d at 863-64 (“This 2 rule . . . does not require that the issues in such proceedings are necessarily controlling of the 3 action before the court.”). 4 In determining whether a stay is warranted, the court must weigh the competing 5 interests resulting from granting or declining a motion to stay. Lockyer, 398 F.3d at 1110 6 (citations omitted). The competing interests include: (1) the possible damage that may result 7 from granting a stay, (2) the hardship or inequity a party may suffer in being required to go 8 forward, and (3) the orderly course of justice measured in terms of the simplifying or 9 complicating of issues, proof, and questions of law expected to result from a stay. Id. (citations 10 omitted). “[I]f there is even a fair possibility that the stay for which he prays will work damage to 11 some one else,” the moving party “must make out a clear case of hardship or inequity in being 12 required to go forward.” Landis, 299 U.S. at 255 (verbatim quote). Furthermore, “a stay should 13 not be granted unless it appears likely the other proceedings will be concluded within a 14 reasonable time in relation to the urgency of the claims presented to the court.” Leyva, 593 F.2d 15 at 864; see Dependable Highway Exp., Inc. v. Navigators Ins. Co., 498 F.3d 1059, 1066 (9th Cir. 16 2007) (“Generally, stays should not be indefinite in nature.”). “The proponent of a stay bears the 17 burden of establishing its need.” Clinton v. Jones, 520 U.S. 681, 708 (1997) (citing Landis, 18 299 U.S. at 255). 19 III. 20 DISCUSSION A. 21 Possible Damage Plaintiffs contend they face considerable damage should a stay issue because they 22 will be unable to pursue critical discovery and will be unjustifiably delayed in seeking relief for 23 their “urgent [claims], implicating . . . the statutory rights of children with disabilities to a 24 meaningful education.” Pls.’ Resp. at 6, 13. Moreover, plaintiffs doubt the value of a stay, 25 noting, (1) Emma C. concerns only K-8 students with disabilities at Ravenswood City School 26 District (“Ravenswood”) while the instant action concerns all children with disabilities in the 27 State of California, and (2) Emma C. implicates only CDE’s monitoring obligations while 28 ///// 3 1 plaintiffs here allege CDE is not fulfilling its monitoring, investigation and enforcement 2 obligations. Id. at 5-6. 3 B. 4 Hardship or Inequity in Going Forward CDE argues a stay “is warranted because the final resolution in Emma C. . . . may 5 be instructive or directive on the statewide system as a whole.” CDE Resp. at 2. CDE further 6 suggests a stay may ultimately help focus the parties’ discovery plans. See id. at 3. Furthermore, 7 CDE’s compliance with its monitoring obligations under the Emma C. consent decree does 8 implicate to some degree CDE’s “statewide system” for monitoring. See Emma v. Eastin, 9 673 F. App’x 637, 640 (9th Cir. 2016). In fact, the Emma C. court has rejected CDE’s prior 10 attempts to limit “the scope of the Court’s examination . . . to the district-level system,” and has 11 “affirmed the Monitor’s determination that he needed to review the state-level system in order to 12 evaluate its application in Ravenswood.” Emma C. v. Eastin, No. 96-CV-04179-TEH, 2015 WL 13 5029283, at *8 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 25, 2015), aff’d sub nom. Emma v. Eastin, 673 F. App’x 637 (9th 14 Cir. 2016) (citation omitted). As the Ninth Circuit noted, “the State itself appears to have chosen 15 to turn its state-level obligation under the Consent Decree to monitor Ravenswood into an 16 obligation to monitor school districts statewide—by choosing to present the court with only a 17 uniform statewide monitoring approach.” Emma, 673 F. App’x at 640. 18 Moreover, because the certified class in Emma C. includes all past, present and 19 future students with disabilities at Ravenswood, plaintiffs in the instant action necessarily seek to 20 further the interests of Emma C. class members. See ECF No. 2330 at 4 in Emma C. v. 21 Torlakson, Case No. 3:96-cv-4179 (VC) (noting certified class consists of “all past, present, and 22 future children with disabilities who reside in the Ravenswood District”); see also Pls.’ Resp. at 23 10 (explaining plaintiffs “seek[] relief on behalf of all children with disabilities in the State of 24 California who are being denied FAPE . . .”). Accordingly, CDE’s compliance with obligations 25 imposed in this action pertaining to elementary school students, if any, will implicate CDE’s 26 Emma C. monitoring requirements at Ravenswood, and vice versa. To the extent any remedial 27 monitoring plan that this court might issue were to conflict with Emma C.’s consent decree, 28 ///// 4 1 CDE’s fulfillment of its monitoring obligations at Ravenswood would comply with its monitoring 2 obligations in this action, or its Emma C. monitoring obligations, but not both. 3 4 3. Orderly Course of Justice Plaintiffs acknowledge that “both cases call for remedial monitoring plans” and 5 say they “anticipate drawing on the considerable expertise and knowledge of the Emma C. Court 6 Monitor,” though they contend the actions “only incidentally intersect.” See Pls.’ Resp. at 17. It 7 appears to this court that the relationship between the instant action and Emma C. is more than 8 incidental, and that the remedial proceedings in Emma C. will inform the proceedings here. 9 Furthermore, clarity on the intersection between these two cases may be forthcoming, as the 10 Emma C. court will consider the parties’ newly proposed processes for the court’s evaluation of 11 state compliance on March 26, 2018. See ECF No. 2350 at 1 in Emma C. v. Torlakson, Case 12 No. 3:96-c0v-4179 (VC). A limited stay here pending the outcome of the Emma C. status 13 conference is warranted. 14 The court is cognizant of the differences between these cases and plaintiffs’ 15 concerns that a stay would sweep too broadly and cause more harm than it would avoid. Thus, 16 after careful consideration, the court determines a temporary targeted stay is appropriate: The 17 court STAYS discovery related to CDE’s monitoring obligations at K-8 schools until April 20, 18 2018. On April 20, 2018, the court will hold a status conference. The parties are ORDERED to 19 jointly file a status statement seven days prior to the status conference. The statement should 20 indicate whether and how the March 26, 2018 hearing in Emma C. informs this action. In light of 21 this order, CDE’s ex parte motion to stay discovery pending resolution of the order to show 22 cause, ECF No. 346, is DENIED as MOOT. 23 24 IT IS SO ORDERED. DATED: March 5, 2018. 25 26 UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE 27 28 5

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