N.E. et al v. Seattle School District

Filing 35

ORDER denying plaintiffs' 34 Motion for Reconsideration signed by Judge James L. Robart.(RS)

Download PDF
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT WESTERN DISTRICT OF WASHINGTON AT SEATTLE 8 9 N.E., et al., 10 CASE NO. C15-1659JLR Plaintiffs, 11 v. ORDER DENYING MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION 12 SEATTLE SCHOOL DISTRICT, 13 Defendant. 14 15 I. INTRODUCTION Before the court is Plaintiffs N.E., C.E., and P.E.’s1 (collectively, “Plaintiffs”) 16 17 motion for reconsideration of the court’s May 16, 2017, order of dismissal and judgment. 18 (See MFR (Dkt. # 34).) The court has reviewed Plaintiffs’ motion, the relevant portions 19 // 20 // 21 22 1 Plaintiffs C.E. and P.E. are N.E.’s parents. The court refers to them as “the Parents.” ORDER - 1 1 of the record, and the applicable law. Being fully advised,2 the court DENIES Plaintiffs’ 2 motion for the reasons set forth below. 3 4 II. BACKGROUND On October 16, 2015, Plaintiffs filed this interlocutory appeal from an 5 administrative law judge’s (“ALJ”) decision regarding N.E.’s “stay-put” placement under 6 the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”), 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et seq. (See 7 Compl. (Dkt. # 1) ¶ 1; 1st Hruska Decl. (Dkt. # 3) ¶ 7, Ex. 7 (“ALJ Decision”).) 8 9 N.E. is a male child who attended third grade at Newport Heights Elementary School in the Bellevue School District (“BSD”) for most of the 2014-15 school year. (See 10 ALJ Decision at 2.) During most of that year and in the prior years, N.E.’s individual 11 education plan (“IEP”) placed him in general education classes with paraeducator support 12 (“general classes”) for the majority of the school day. (See id.; 1st C.E. Decl. (Dkt. # 4) 13 ¶ 1.) The most recent IEP reflecting that arrangement is dated December 2014 (“the 14 December 2014 IEP”). (See ALJ Decision at 2; 1st C.E. Decl. ¶ 2, Ex. 1 (“12/14 IEP”).) 15 N.E. had significant difficulties during the 2014-15 school year. (See ALJ 16 Decision at 2; 1st C.E. Decl. ¶ 3.) Certain BSD officials and teachers, the Parents, and 17 their respective counsel attended an IEP meeting on May 26, 2015. (See ALJ Decision at 18 2; 1st Hruska Decl. ¶ 5, Ex. 4 at 10-13 (“Landwehr Decl.”) ¶ 5.) At the meeting, the BSD 19 proposed a new IEP that would place N.E. in specialized classes for students with 20 behavioral and emotional disorders (“separate classes”). (See Landwehr Decl. ¶ 5; 1st 21 2 22 Plaintiffs do not request oral argument, and the court concludes that oral argument would not be helpful to its disposition of the motion. See Local Rules W.D. Wash. LCR 7(b)(4). ORDER - 2 1 C.E. Decl. ¶ 3.) The Parents objected to this proposal. (See ALJ Decision at 2; 1st C.E. 2 Decl. ¶ 3; Landwehr Decl. ¶ 5.) 3 At the meeting, BSD officials and the Parents also discussed where to place N.E. 4 for the remainder of the school year. (See ALJ Decision at 2.) When the meeting 5 occurred, N.E. was subject to an emergency expulsion and the Parents were 6 uncomfortable with N.E. returning to Newport Heights. (See id.; Landwehr Decl. ¶ 6.) 7 The BSD and the Parents agreed that N.E. would finish the final weeks of the 2014-15 8 school year at a different school in the district. (See ALJ Decision at 2.) At that school, 9 N.E. would spend the majority of the day in a one-on-two setting that included N.E., a 10 teacher, and a paraeducator, but no other students (“individual classes”). (See id.; 1st 11 C.E. Decl. ¶ 4; Landwehr Decl. ¶ 6.) 12 One day later, on May 27, 2015, the BSD produced a final IEP for N.E. (“the May 13 2015 IEP”). (See ALJ Decision at 2; 1st C.E. Decl. ¶ 5, Ex. 2 (“5/15 IEP”).) The May 14 2015 IEP had two stages: (1) N.E. would finish the end of the 2014-15 school year in the 15 agreed-upon individual classes, and (2) N.E. would be placed in separate classes at the 16 start of the 2015-16 school year. (See ALJ Decision at 2-3; 1st C.E. Decl. ¶ 5; 5/15 IEP 17 at 15-16.) The Parents did not file an administrative due process challenge to the May 18 2015 IEP and instead allowed N.E. to continue attending the individual classes until the 19 school year ended on June 22, 2015. (See ALJ Decision at 2-3; 1st C.E. Decl. ¶ 7.) 20 The Parents and N.E. moved to Seattle in the summer of 2015 and contacted the 21 Seattle School District (“the District”) to enroll N.E. for the 2015-16 school year. (See 22 ALJ Decision at 3; 1st C.E. Decl. ¶ 8; Landwehr Decl. ¶ 7.) The Parents requested that ORDER - 3 1 the District place N.E. in classes similar to the individual classes. (See ALJ Decision at 2 3; Landwehr Decl. ¶ 7.) The District reviewed N.E.’s records and decided to place him in 3 separate classes similar to those contemplated in the second part of the May 2015 IEP. 4 (See ALJ Decision at 3; 1st C.E. Decl. ¶ 8; Landwehr Decl. ¶ 7.) 5 The Parents objected and filed an administrative due process challenge to the 6 District’s decision. (See ALJ Decision at 3; Hruska Decl. ¶ 2, Ex. 1 (“DP Hearing 7 Req.”)); 20 U.S.C. § 1415(f). The due process challenge sought a declaration that the 8 District had denied N.E. a free appropriate public education (“FAPE”), an IEP providing 9 for the individual classes contemplated in the first part of the May 2015 IEP, and 10 reimbursement for private placement. (DP Hearing Req. at 4-5.) At the same time, the 11 Parents filed a motion for “stay put,” arguing that N.E.’s stay-put placement is the 12 general classes described in the December 2014 IEP. (See ALJ Decision at 3; DP 13 Hearing Req. at 3; 1st Hruska Decl. ¶ 3, Ex. 2 (“Stay-Put Mot.”)); 20 U.S.C. § 1415(j) 14 (stating that pending a due process challenge, “the child shall remain in the then-current 15 educational placement of the child”). The District contended that the separate classes 16 described in the May 2015 IEP represented the appropriate stay-put placement for N.E. 17 (See ALJ Decision at 3; 1st Hruska Decl. ¶¶ 4-6, Exs. 3-5.) Following testimony and oral 18 argument on the stay-put motion, the ALJ sided with the District and concluded that 19 separate classes were N.E.’s stay-put placement. (See ALJ Decision at 1, 4.) 20 Plaintiffs’ interlocutory appeal sought reversal of the ALJ’s stay-put decision and 21 a declaration that the District is required to place N.E. in a general education setting 22 consistent with his December 2014 IEP pending the outcome of Plaintiffs’ due process ORDER - 4 1 challenge to the District’s intended placement. (Compl. at 5.) Upon filing this appeal, 2 Plaintiffs sought a temporary restraining order (“TRO”) and preliminary injunction 3 ordering the District to place N.E. in general classes pending the due process challenge. 4 (See Compl.; TRO Mot. (Dkt. # 2); 10/27/15 Order (Dkt. # 11) at 5.) The court denied 5 Plaintiffs’ motion because the court found no support for Plaintiffs’ theory that the court 6 could “ignore any unrealized stages of a multi-stage IEP or treat such stages as distinct 7 IEPs.” (10/27/15 Order at 9.) 8 9 Plaintiffs appealed the court’s decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. (See Not. of Appeal (Dkt. # 15).) On November 11, 2016, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the 10 court’s denial of the TRO and preliminary injunction. See N.E. by and through C.E. & 11 P.E. v. Seattle Sch. Dist., 842 F.3d 1093, 1098 (9th Cir. 2016) (holding that “[s]tage two 12 of the May 2015 IEP . . . was N.E.’s stay-put placement”). On February 3, 2017, the 13 Ninth Circuit issued its formal mandate, returning the case to this court’s jurisdiction. 14 (Mandate (Dkt. # 23).) 15 After the Ninth Circuit issued its mandate, the parties took no further action until 16 the court ordered Plaintiffs to show cause why the case should not be dismissed as moot. 17 (3/9/17 OSC (Dkt. # 24) at 5.) In Plaintiffs’ response, they contended that an actual 18 controversy regarding N.E’s educational placement continues to exist. (Resp. to OSC 19 (Dkt. # 25) at 2.) Plaintiffs did not inform the court of the status of their underlying due 20 process claim. (See generally id.) 21 When the court ordered Plaintiffs to show cause, the court also afforded the 22 District an opportunity to respond (3/9/17 OSC at 5), but the District did not file a ORDER - 5 1 response at that time (see Dkt.). Rather, on March 30, 2017, the District moved to 2 dismiss this matter as moot. (See generally MTD (Dkt. # 27).) On May 16, 2017, the 3 court granted the District’s motion, concluding that Plaintiffs’ interlocutory appeal was 4 moot because the underlying due process claim had been dismissed with prejudice. 5 (5/16/17 Order (Dkt. # 32) at 9 (“The court is no longer able to afford any relief to 6 Plaintiffs because the relief they seek relates directly to N.E.’s stay-put placement 7 pending that particular due process claim . . . .”).) The court further concluded that 8 neither Plaintiffs’ assertion that they were entitled to reimbursement of educational costs 9 nor Plaintiffs’ petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Supreme Court altered 10 the court’s mootness determination. (See id. at 10-12); 20 U.S.C. § 1412(a)(10)(C)(ii) 11 (“[A] court or a hearing officer may require the agency to reimburse the parents for the 12 cost of that enrollment if the court or hearing officer finds that the agency had not made a 13 free appropriate public education available to the child in a timely manner prior to that 14 enrollment.”). Finally, the court concluded that the case did not fall within the “capable 15 of repetition, yet evading review” exception to mootness because the Parents stipulated to 16 dismiss the underlying due process claim with prejudice should they not prevail before 17 the Ninth Circuit, and the case was therefore inherently limited in duration. (Id. at 18 14-15.) Based on these conclusions, the court dismissed this matter with prejudice and 19 entered judgment. (Id. at 16; Judgment (Dkt. # 33).) 20 Plaintiffs now move for reconsideration on the bases that (1) the court did not 21 consider Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(c) in reaching its conclusion, and (2) 22 Plaintiffs provided notice that they intended “to seek reimbursement and compensatory ORDER - 6 1 education in their original due process hearing complaint that contained the motion for 2 stay put on appeal.” (MFR at 2.) The court turns to Plaintiffs’ motion 3 III. 4 ANALYSIS “Motions for reconsideration are disfavored,” and the court “will ordinarily deny 5 such motions in the absence of a showing of manifest error in the prior ruling or a 6 showing of new facts or legal authority which could not have been brought to [the 7 court’s] attention earlier with reasonable diligence.” Local Rules W.D. Wash. LCR 8 7(h)(1). Plaintiffs contend that the court should grant their motion to reconsider because 9 the court “failed to even consider” Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(c) (MFR at 3), and 10 they requested reimbursement in the underlying due process case (id. at 6). Rule 54(c) 11 provides that every final judgment besides a default judgment “should grant the relief to 12 which the party is entitled, even if the party has not demanded that relief in its pleadings.” 13 Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(c); see also Ryan v. Mesa Unified Sch. Dist., 195 F. Supp. 3d 1080, 14 1088 (D. Ariz. 2016) (“Rule 54(c) allows the court to award monetary damages to 15 [p]laintiffs . . . if they prove facts entitling them to such relief, even though they failed to 16 plead such a request in their complaint.”). Rule 54(c) allows courts to “grant whatever 17 relief is appropriate in the case on the facts proved.” Cal. Ins. Guar. Assoc. v. Burwell, 18 --- F. Supp. 3d ---, 2017 WL 58821, at *10 (C.D. Cal. Jan. 5, 2017) (internal quotation 19 marks omitted). 20 As an initial matter, Plaintiffs did not raise Rule 54(c) in their response brief. (See 21 MTD Resp. (Dkt. # 29) at 2-3.) However, Plaintiffs do not explain why Rule 54(c) 22 provides a basis for reconsideration when they could have earlier brought this authority to ORDER - 7 1 the court’s attention with reasonable diligence. See Local Rules W.D. Wash. LCR 2 7(h)(1). Accordingly, Plaintiffs fail to make the showing required to justify 3 reconsideration. See id. 4 Moreover, although Rule 54(c) permits a court to grant monetary relief where a 5 plaintiff’s complaint seeks only declaratory and injunctive relief, see Z Channel Ltd. 6 P’ship v. Home Box Office, Inc., 931 F.2d 1338, 1341 (9th Cir. 1991), Plaintiffs no longer 7 have a live claim3 that would entitle them to reimbursement for private placement, see 8 Brown v. Bartholomew Consol. Sch. Corp., 442 F.3d 588, 596-97 (7th Cir. 2006) 9 (holding that the parents had abandoned a claim to reimbursement “originat[ing] in their 10 rights under the stay-put injunction” when the parents failed to seek reimbursement in the 11 district court); Lillbask ex rel. Mauclaire v. Conn. Dep’t of Educ., 397 F.3d 77, 90 (2d 12 Cir. 2005) (reasoning that “it would be particularly inappropriate to read a prayer for 13 compensatory education” into the operative complaint because the plaintiff “explicitly 14 included such relief in earlier iterations of her pleadings” but failed to include the request 15 in the operative complaint). Like in Brown, Plaintiffs abandoned their claim to 16 reimbursement by stipulating to dismissal of the underlying due process case in which 17 3 18 19 20 21 22 At least one court has noted that reimbursement could be viewed as an additional claim or as additional relief on an existing claim, but the court did not decide the issue. See Houston Indep. Sch. Dist. v. V.P. ex rel. Juan P., 582 F.3d 576, 598 (5th Cir. 2009) (citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(c)). Courts in the Ninth Circuit appear to treat reimbursement as a claim rather than simply as a form of relief. See, e.g., Capistrano Unified Sch. Dist. v. Wartenberg, 59 F.3d 884, 890 (9th Cir. 1995) (“The Wartenbergs’ claim for reimbursement for . . . tuition is a live controversy.”); Browell v. Lemahieu, 127 F. Supp. 2d 1117, 1128 (D. Haw. 2000) (holding that an IDEA case was moot because the “[p]laintiff has no monetary claim before this Court,” which left “no relief that this Court can give”). Accordingly, because there is no reimbursement claim before the court, see infra, the court cannot determine that Plaintiffs are entitled to any relief, regardless of whether they demanded that relief. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(c). ORDER - 8 1 they sought reimbursement. See 442 F.3d at 596-97; (Hokit Decl. (Dkt. # 28) ¶ 4, Ex. 3 2 (dismissing with prejudice the due process case upon which this interlocutory appeal is 3 premised); see generally Compl. (failing to seek reimbursement); see also DP Hearing 4 Req. at 5 (requesting in the underlying due process case reimbursement of private 5 placement costs the parents incurred).) Pursuant to that stipulation, the ALJ dismissed 6 with prejudice the 2015-16 claim upon which Plaintiffs base this interlocutory appeal, 7 and there is presently no claim for reimbursement—or any other claim—before the court. 8 Therefore, Plaintiffs’ interlocutory appeal is moot (see 5/16/17 Order at 9), and the court 9 did not commit manifest error in reaching this conclusion.4 Because Plaintiffs fail to demonstrate manifest error in the court’s decision or new 10 11 facts or legal authority that could not have been brought to the court’s attention earlier 12 with reasonable diligence, the court denies their motion for reconsideration. 13 // 14 // 15 // 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 4 Although Plaintiffs do not raise the issue on reconsideration, the court further notes that the fact that the Parents have filed a new due process claim—in which they apparently seek reimbursement and a decision on stay-put placement related to N.E.’s IEP for the 2016-17 school year—does not remedy the mootness problem. (See MTD Resp. at 5; P.E. Decl. (Dkt. # 29-1) ¶¶ 4 (stating the educational costs the Parents have paid from January 2016 to May 2016), 10 (stating that on April 17, 2017, the Parents filed a new due process hearing request that includes a motion for stay-put placement based on N.E.’s December 2014 IEP).) As the court concluded in its order of dismissal, even if this newly filed claim alleges that the District has subjected N.E. to the same actions that gave rise to the 2015-16 due process claim, Plaintiffs failed to establish that this case falls within the “capable of repetition, yet evading review” exception to mootness. (See 5/16/17 Order at 14-15.) Accordingly, any request for reimbursement in the new due process case does not warrant reconsideration. ORDER - 9 1 2 3 4 IV. CONCLUSION For the foregoing reasons, the court DENIES Plaintiffs’ motion for reconsideration (Dkt. # 34). Dated this 29th day of June, 2017. 5 6 A 7 JAMES L. ROBART United States District Judge 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 ORDER - 10

Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.

Why Is My Information Online?