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C.S. v. California Dep't of Education

April 30, 2008

C.S. BY AND THROUGH HIS CONSERVATOR, MARY STRUBLE, ON BEHALF OF HIMSELF AND ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, ET. AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Thomas J. Whelan United States District Judge

ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFFS' APPLICATION FOR TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER (Doc. No. 4)

On February 5, 2008 Plaintiffs C.S., et. al. ("Plaintiffs") commenced this class action against Defendant California Department of Education ("Defendant" or "CDE") alleging IDEA Act, Supremacy Clause, and Equal Protection violations and seeking injunctive relief. (Doc. No. 1.) On February 19, 2008 Plaintiffs moved for a temporary restraining order ("TRO") to restrain Defendant CDE from contracting with the Office of Administrative Hearings. (Doc. No. 4.) Several briefing schedules and extensions followed. (Doc. Nos. 7, 12, 18.)

On April 8, 2008 the Court granted Defendant Ron Diedrich's, in his official capacity as director of chief administrative law judge of the state of California Office of Administrative Hearings ("Defendant" or "OAH"), motion to intervene as a Defendant in this action. (Doc. No. 35.) The Court now takes the application for temporary restraining order under submission without oral argument. See S.D. Cal. Civ. R. 7.1(d)(1). For the following reasons, the Court DENIES Plaintiffs' application for a temporary restraining order. (Doc. No. 4.)

I. BACKGROUND

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA") and implementing regulations provide procedural and substantive standards for educating students with disabilities. 20 U.S.C. § 1400. As a condition of receiving federal funds, states must establish procedures to ensure that special education students are receiving a free appropriate public education ("FAPE"). 20 U.S.C. § 1415(a). The parents of special education students may challenge the educational placement of their child by requesting an administrative "due process hearing" before an independent and impartial hearing officer. 20 U.S.C. § 1415(f).

Plaintiff C.S. is an eighteen year-old, conserved student who qualifies for special education under the Autism eligibility category. (Compl. ¶ 16.) Plaintiff alleges that he participated as a party in an administrative due process hearing, which was conducted in such a way as to deny him certain federal and constitutional rights. (Id. ¶ 10.)*fn1 Plaintiff C.S. brings this action on behalf of himself and all others similarly situated.

Defendant California Department of Education ("CDE") is a California agency tasked to administer the California education system. (Id. ¶ 25.) By receiving federal funds, IDEA mandates that CDE provide disabled students' parents with impartial administrative due process hearings. (Id.) Defendant CDE contracts with Defendant Office of Administrative Hearings ("OAH") to conduct these hearings. (Id. ¶ 26.) Under the contract, or interagency agreement, OAH must provide Administrative Law Judges ("ALJs") with certain knowledge and training in special education law. (Id. ¶ 10.) The contract also requires that CDE oversee the ALJ training and implementation of special education law. (Id.)

On February 5, 2008 Plaintiffs filed suit against Defendant CDE, alleging that CDE failed to adequately supervise OAH's administrative hearing process. (Doc. No. 1.) The gist of Plaintiffs' complaint is that CDE's contractual relationship with OAH is unlawful because the ALJs are neither appropriately trained nor following or implementing relevant federal law. (Id. ¶ 3.) Plaintiffs allege that C.S., and all others similarly situated, have been denied due process as a result of poor ALJ performance. (Id. ¶ 17.)

On February 19, 2008 Plaintiffs moved for a temporary restraining order, arguing that CDE should be enjoined from renewing the current interagency contract with OAH that expires on July 1, 2008. (Doc. No. 4.) On March 7, 2008 Ron Diedrich, in his official capacity as Director and Chief Administrative Law Judge of the State of California Office of Administrative Hearings ("OAH"), moved for an order permitting OAH to intervene as a defendant in this action. (Doc. No. 14.) Per OAH's request, the Court established a briefing schedule with the goal of granting or denying the intervenor motion before CDE's TRO opposition was due. (Doc. No. 18.) Among other things, the Court ordered that Plaintiffs oppose OAH's motion by March 24, 2008, an amount of time consistent with the time allotted to oppose a noticed motion under the Local Rules. See S.D. Cal. Civ. R. 7.1(e)(1), (2).

On March 24, 2008 Plaintiffs opposed OAH's motion to intervene. (Doc. No. 21.) The same day, Plaintiff moved ex parte for an Order to Show Cause why Defendant CDE should not be ordered to file an answer to Plaintiffs' complaint. (Doc. No. 24.) The Court denied Plaintiffs' motion as moot when CDE filed an answer the next day, on March 25, 2008. (Doc. No. 26.) On April 8, 2008 the Court granted OAH's motion to intervene as a Defendant, and OAH was added to the case. (Doc. No. 35.)

On April 14, 2008 both CDE and OAH opposed Plaintiffs' application for TRO. (Doc. Nos. 36, 37.) On April 22, 2008 Plaintiffs filed their Reply. (Doc. No. 41.)

II. LEGAL STANDARD

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure outline the procedures a federal court must follow when deciding whether to grant a temporary restraining order. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 65. The standard for granting a temporary restraining order is the same as the standard for entering a preliminary injunction. Bronco Wine Co. v. U.S. Dep't of Treasury, 997 F. Supp. 1309, 1313 (E.D. Cal. 1996); Franklin v. Scribner, Civil No. 07-0438 BTM (LSP), 2007 WL 1491100, at *3 (S.D. Cal. May 21, 2007). The Ninth Circuit has prescribed the following equitable criteria for determining whether to grant injunctive relief:

(1) the likelihood of the moving party's success on the merits; (2) the possibility of irreparable injury to the moving party if relief is not granted; (3) the extent to which the balance of hardships favors the respective parties; and (4) in certain cases, whether the public interest will be advanced by granting the preliminary relief. The moving party must show either (1) a combination of probable success on the merits and the possibility of irreparable harm, or (2) the existence of serious questions going to the merits, the balance of hardships tipping sharply in its favor, and at least a fair chance of success on the merits... [T]he required degree of irreparable harm increases as the probability of success decreases.

Owner Operator Indep. Drivers Ass'n, Inc. v. Swift Transp. Co., 367 F.3d 1108, 1111 (9th Cir. 2004) (quoting Miller ex. rel. N.L.R.B. v. Cal. Pac. Med. Ctr., 19 F.3d 449, 456 (9th Cir. 1994)). The temporary restraining order "should be restricted to serving [its] underlying purpose of preserving the status quo and preventing irreparable harm just so long as is necessary to hold a hearing, and no longer." Granny Goose Foods, Inc. v. Bhd. of Teamsters & Auto Truck Drivers Local No. 70, 415 U.S. 423, 439 (1974); accord L.A. Mem'l Coliseum Comm'n v. Nat'l Football League, 634 F.2d 1197, 1200 (9th Cir. 1980); Del Toro-Chacon v. Chertoff, 431 F. Supp. 2d 1135, 1139-40 (W.D. Wash. 2006).

A preliminary injunction is an extraordinary and drastic remedy, one that should not be granted unless the movant, by a clear showing, carries the burden of persuasion. Mazurek v. Armstrong, 520 U.S. 968, 972 (1997). Additionally, where the moving party seeks to enjoin governmental action taken in the public interest pursuant to a statutory or regulatory scheme, the moving party must meet a heightened standard establishing both irreparable injury and a probability of success on the merits. Pinnacle Armor, Inc. v. United States, No. CV F ...


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