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

June 9, 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 PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION (Doc. No. 48.)

On April 30, 2008 this Court denied Plaintiff C.S.'s ("Plaintiff") application for temporary restraining order ("TRO") to enjoin a contract between Defendant California Department of Education ("CDE") and Defendant Office of Administrative Hearings ("OAH"). (Doc. No. 47.) Pending before the Court is Plaintiff's motion for reconsideration of the Court's April 30, 2008 Order denying Plaintiff's application for a TRO. (Doc. No. 48.) The Court takes the matter under submission and without oral argument. See S.D. Cal. Civ. R. 7.1(d)(1). For the following reasons, the Court DENIES Plaintiff's motion for reconsideration. (Doc. No. 48.)

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). The hearing officer is required to deliver a copy of his decision to the parties within forty-five days, which can be extended by agreement. 34 C.F.R. § 300.515.

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. (Compl. ¶ 10.)

On February 5, 2008 Plaintiff filed suit against Defendant CDE, alleging that CDE failed to adequately supervise OAH's administrative hearing process. (Doc. No. 1.) The gist of Plaintiff's 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.) Plaintiff alleges 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 Plaintiff 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 Plaintiff 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 Plaintiff 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 Plaintiff's complaint. (Doc. No. 24.) The Court denied Plaintiff's 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 9, 2008 Plaintiff's counsel, Ellen Dowd ("Dowd"), contacted OAH and made a Public Records Act request for "any and all written requests, stipulations, waivers, orders, and/or any other documentation generated by OAH or signed by any OAH ALJ extending the deadline for issuance of a Decision in a special education due process proceeding from July 1, 2005 to the present." (Ellen Dowd Decl. Ex. A (emphasis in original).) On April 21, 2008 OAH denied Dowd's request, stating that because the agency had adjudicated approximately 9,000 cases since July 1, 2005, Dowd's request was overly broad and unduly burdensome. (Ellen Dowd Decl. Ex. E.) OAH invited Dowd to submit a more tailored request before the agency would begin "an unnecessary search for a 'needle in a haystack' or, conversely, the potential production of a huge volume of material that is unduly burdensome...." (Id.) OAH also returned the fifty dollar check that accompanied Dowd's letter, which would have covered five hundred pages of records. (Pl.'s Mot. for Reconsideration 2.)

On April 30, 2008 the Court denied Plaintiff's application for TRO (the "Order"). (Doc. No. 47.) On May 9, 2008 Plaintiff moved this Court to reconsider its April 30 Order denying Plaintiff's application for TRO.*fn2 (Doc. No. 48.) On May 13, 2008, per Plaintiff's request, the Court issued an order shortening the briefing schedule. (Doc. No. 50.) On May 23, 2008 Defendants CDE and OAH opposed Plaintiff's motion for reconsideration. (Doc. Nos. 52, 53.) On May 28, 2008 Plaintiff submitted his Reply brief. (Doc. No. 58.)

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Motions for reconsideration are disfavored unless a party shows that there is new evidence, a change in controlling law, or establishes that the Court committed clear error in its earlier ruling. School Dist. No. 1J, Multnomah County, Or. v. AcandS, Inc., 5 F.3d 1255, 1263 (9th Cir. 1993); Hon. Thomas J. Whelan Chamber Rules. Reargument should not be used as a means to argue new facts or issues that inexcusably were not presented to the ...


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