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Houston v. Encinitas Union School Dist.

May 27, 2008

CLAUDIA HOUSTON, CASSANDRA HOUSTON, BRITTANY HOUSTON, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
ENCINITAS UNION SCHOOL DISTRICT, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hayes, Judge

ORDER

The matters before the Court are (1) the "Motions & Requests to Recuse, Appt Counsel, Transfer Rights and Proposed Rule 52, 59, 60 Motions to Make Findings; to Vacate and Set Aside Judgment of Feb. 28, 2008 [Doc. 170]; to Sanction" (Docs. # 176, 177), (2) the Motion to Stay Due to Pending Petition for Rehearing (Doc. # 179), (3) the Ex Parte Motion to Correct Clerical Error in Doc. # 180 (Doc. # 184), (4) the Ex Parte Motion to Correct Clerical Error in Doc. # 182 (Doc. # 185), and (5) the Ex Parte Motion for Indication of Willingness to Hear Motion re IDEA Reimbursements (Doc. # 186).

Background

On December 13, 2000, Plaintiffs initiated this action by filing the complaint (Doc. # 1). On June 2, 2003, Plaintiffs filed the fourth amended complaint ("FAC") (Doc. # 78), which became the operative complaint in this case.*fn1 On June 24, 2003, Defendants filed the motion to dismiss the FAC (Doc. # 79). On March 25, 2004, the Court issued an order granting the motion to dismiss the FAC on grounds that Plaintiffs failed to exhaust their administrative remedies or demonstrate that their attempts to exhaust their administrative remedies were futile. The Court dismissed the FAC with prejudice with respect to Plaintiff Claudia Houston and without prejudice with respect to Plaintiffs Cassandra and Brittany Houston (Doc. # 122). On March 25, 2004, the Clerk of the Court entered judgment against Plaintiffs and in favor of Defendants, and terminated the case (Doc. # 123).

On April 9, 2004, Plaintiffs filed a notice of appeal from the Court's March 25, 2004 order dismissing the case (Doc. # 125). On January 29, 2008, the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit entered judgment in this case affirming in part, vacating in part and remanding (Doc. # 169). The Ninth Circuit stated: "[W]e vacate the district court's judgment to the extent it dismissed Claudia Houston's federal claims with prejudice, and remand for entry of judgment dismissing the entire action without prejudice." Id. at 3. On February 28, 2008, this Court issued an order dismissing the entire action without prejudice and directing the Clerk of the Court to enter judgment against Plaintiffs and in favor of Defendants (Doc. # 170). On February 28, 2008, the Clerk of the Court entered judgment dismissing the entire action without prejudice, and terminated the case (Doc. # 171).

On March 17, 2008, Plaintiffs filed the "Motions & Requests to Recuse, Appt Counsel, Transfer Rights and Proposed Rule 52, 59, 60 Motions to Make Findings; to Vacate and Set Aside Judgment of Feb. 28, 2008 [Doc. 170]; to Sanction" ("Motion to Vacate"). On March 27, 2008, Plaintiffs filed the Motion to Stay Due to Pending Petition for Rehearing ("Motion to Stay"). On April 18, 2008, Plaintiffs filed the Ex Parte Motion to Correct Clerical Error in Doc. # 180 ("Motion re Doc. # 180"). On April 18, 2008, Plaintiffs filed the Ex Parte Motion to Correct Clerical Error in Doc. # 182 ("Motion re Doc. # 182"). On April 18, 2008, Plaintiffs filed the Ex Parte Motion for Indication of Willingness to Hear Motion re IDEA Reimbursements ("Motion re IDEA Reimbursements"). Defendants have not filed a response to any of Plaintiffs' Motions.

Analysis

II. Motion to Stay

Plaintiffs contend that they filed a timely petition for rehearing with the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit before filing the Motion to Vacate with this Court. Plaintiffs contend that the petition for rehearing requests that the Ninth Circuit vacate the orders reassigning the case from Judge Gonzales to Judge Hayes (Doc. # 93), granting Plaintiffs' request to file a fifth amended complaint (Doc. # 94), denying the motion to vacate, reset hearing and extend time due to excusable neglect (Doc. # 121), and granting the motion to dismiss the FAC (Doc. # 122). Plaintiffs request that this Court stay proceedings on the Motion to Vacate.

"Different Rules of Procedure govern the power of district courts and courts of appeals to stay an order pending appeal." Hilton v. Braunskill, 481 U.S. 770, 776 (1987). However, the factors regulating the issuance of a stay are generally the same: (1) whether the stay applicant has made a strong showing that he is likely to succeed on the merits; (2) whether the applicant will be irreparably injured absent a stay; (3) whether issuance of the stay will substantially injure the other parties; and (4) where the public interest lies. Id.

Plaintiffs have not made a strong showing that they are likely to succeed on the merits of their appeal, or that they will suffer irreparable injury absent a stay. Granting a stay would not benefit the public interest. The Court concludes that the factors regulating the issuance of a stay weigh against granting a stay. The Motion to Stay is denied.

II. The Motion to Vacate*fn2

Plaintiffs request the following relief in the Motion to Vacate: (1) that the Court vacate and set aside the judgment pursuant to Rules 60(b) and 59(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, (2) that the Court appoint counsel to represent them in all further proceedings, (3) that the Court "sua sponte recuse itself so it will appear to an objective observer that an impartial tribunal decided our post judgment and other requests" pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 455(a), (4) that the Court transfer "our litigation rights to USDC 06cv1285 IEG," (5) that the Court "investigate alleged fraud, call upon the accused, make findings per FRCP 52," and (6) that the Court "order briefing re Sanctions." Mot. for Recusal, p. 1-2.

A. Plaintiffs' Requests to Vacate and Set Aside the Judgment

i. Rule 60(b)(3)

Plaintiffs contend that the dismissal of their case was grounded on the finding that Plaintiffs had not exhausted their administrative remedies. Plaintiffs contend that Defendants knowingly and falsely denied that Plaintiffs Brittany and Cassandra Houston participated in special education administration due process hearings. Plaintiffs contend that they are entitled to relief from judgment under Rule 60(b)(3) on grounds that Defendants knowingly concealed administrative records of Brittany and Cassandra's participation in due process hearings which demonstrates that Plaintiffs exhausted their administrative remedies.

Rule 60(b)(3) provides for relief from a final judgment obtained through fraud, misrepresentation, or other misconduct of an adverse party. FED. R. CIV. P. 60(b)(3). "To prevail, the moving party must prove by clear and convincing evidence that the [judgment] was obtained through fraud, misrepresentation, or other misconduct and the conduct complained of prevented the losing party from fully and fairly presenting the defense." Casey v. Albertson's Inc., 362 F.3d 1254, 1260 (9th Cir. 2004) (internal quotations omitted). Rule 60(b)(3) requires that the fraud, misrepresentation or other misconduct "not be discoverable by due diligence before or during the proceedings." Id.

20 U.S.C. section 1415, provides that the parents of a disabled child enrolled in private school are entitled to a due process hearing where they may challenge whether the child is receiving a free and appropriate education. "Any party aggrieved by the findings and decision" made in connection with the due process hearing "shall have the right to bring a civil action with respect to the complaint presented." 20 U.S.C. § 1415(I)(2).

Plaintiffs contend that Doc. # 97 "proves administrative due process proceedings did occur." Mot. to Vacate, p. 5. Doc. # 97 is a copy of a transcript from an administrative hearing at the California special education hearing office regarding Plaintiffs' challenge to whether Brittany and Cassandra were receiving a free and appropriate education. However, it does not indicate that the agency reviewing Plaintiffs' complaint made any "findings and decision," as required to satisfy the exhaustion requirements under 20 U.S.C. section 1415. Rather, the transcript reflects that at the conclusion of the hearing, the hearing officer ordered Plaintiffs to submit their arguments in a written motion and stated "I'll make a ruling either prior to the time we reconvene or - uh - when we reconvene." Admin. Hearing Transcript, p. 685. The transcript does not demonstrate that Plaintiffs exhausted their administrative remedies. The transcript was lodged in the record of this case prior to the Court's ruling on the motion to dismiss the FAC. Even if the transcript did demonstrate that Plaintiffs exhausted their administrative remedies, the transcript "could have been discoverable by due diligence before or during the proceedings." Casey, 362 F.3d at 1260. The Court concludes that Plaintiffs are not entitled to relief ...


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