Meridian Joint Sch. Dist. No. 2 v. D.A.

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Disability Law
  • Date Filed: 07-06-2015
  • Case #: 13-35329, 13-36200
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Callahan for the Court; Circuit Judges Fernandez and Hawkins
  • Full Text Opinion

In a suit to determine the eligibility for a student to receive special needs, 20 U.S.C. § 1415(i)(3)(B)(i) and the discretion of the district court, allows for the prevailing parent to be awarded attorneys’ fees.

Matthew, a student, was diagnosed with speech impediments and possible Asperger’s disorder. In California, Matthew received special education; however after moving to Idaho, Matthew did not receive special education. Matthew’s parents (“Parents”) subsequently battled with the Meridian School District (“MSD”) to re-evaluate Matthew pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Act (“IDEA”) in order to keep Matthew in special education classes. Special Education Hearing officer, Guy Price, found that MSD failed to conduct an appropriate evaluation of Matthew’s needs. The MSD decided Matthew should receive an Independent Educational Evaluation (“IEE”) to determine whether accommodations for his unique needs were needed. MDS filed an action in district court to review Price’s decision. The district court found for the Parents request for attorneys’ fees. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit reviewed whether Matthew should be entitled to an IEE, and whether the Parents obtaining a judgment for attorneys’ fees were proper. The panel held that Matthew’s entitlement to an IEE at public expense because the court was resolving whether the Parents were entitled to an IEE not whether Matthew was entitled to special education under the IDEA. Next the panel reversed the district court’s award of attorneys’ fees to the Parents. Attorneys’ fees may be awarded to the prevailing party who is the parent of a disabled child under the IDEA. A child with a disability means a child with disabilities who needs special education. Therefore, because Matthew did not need special services, he and the Parents were not entitled to attorneys’ fees. AFFIRMED in part, REVERSED in part, VACATED in part.

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