Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California Susan Illston, District Judge, Presiding D.C. No. 3:09-cv-03668-SI
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Callahan, Circuit Judge:
Argued and Submitted December 7, 2011-San Francisco, California
Before: Arthur L. Alarcon, Consuelo M. Callahan, and N. Randy Smith, Circuit Judges.
Opinion by Judge Callahan
The court of appeals affirmed a judgment of the district court. The court held that 20 U.S.C. § 1415(i) does not allow immediate judicial review of pre-hearing rulings and decisions made by an ALJ in a case under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
An administrative law judge dismissed several of a special education student's claims against appellee Lafayette School District prior to holding a due process hearing because the claims alleged conduct outside the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act's two-year statute of limitations. Appellants, the child's parents, challenged the ALJ's decision in California's northern district. The district court dismissed the parents' complaint against Lafayette, finding that they were not yet aggrieved parties within the meaning of the IDEA because the ALJ had not yet issued his final decision. The court also dismissed the parents' separate claims against the California Department of Education (CDE), in which the parents alleged that the CDE had failed to comply with its obligations under the IDEA when it closed its investigation of the allegations against Lafayette, ruling that the claim was duplicative of a claim in another pending district court matter before the same judge.
The parents appealed, contending that the IDEA does not require a plaintiff to wait until a final decision has been issued before seeking judicial review challenging pre-hearing rulings.
 The IDEA provides a right to bring a civil action to any party aggrieved by the findings and decision made by the ALJ in a due process hearing. The Ninth Circuit had not previously addressed the issue of whether a plaintiff must wait until an ALJ issues a final decision before seeking judicial review.
 The IDEA, § 1415(i)(2)(A), allows an action by any party aggrieved by the findings and decision made under this subsection. Nothing in § 1415(i) specifically allows immediate judicial review of a pre-hearing ruling.  Several cases indicate that a party may not proceed as an aggrieved party under the statute until a final decision has been issued following a due process hearing.  The Supreme Court has also used language that suggests that a party in an IDEA case must wait for the final decision following the due process hearing before filing suit in district court.
 The court of appeals concluded that the district court properly declined review of the ALJ's interlocutory ruling made before the due process hearing in this IDEA case. Section 1415(i) provides for judicial review of the decision of the hearing officer, but the statute makes clear that the decision referred to is the decision made following a due process hearing or in a state administrative appeal.  The court of appeals held that § 1415(i) does not allow immediate judicial review of pre-hearing rulings and decisions made by an ALJ in an IDEA case. Rather, a party may bring suit if he is aggrieved by the findings and decision made by the ALJ following the conclusion of the due process hearing. The district court did not err in dismissing the claims against Lafayette.
 As to the claims against the CDE, these claims were not based on an alleged violation of § 1415(i) and were not presented to, or required to be presented to, an ALJ. These claims were not premature.
 The court of appeals also ruled that the parents did not show that the district court's dismissal of duplicative claims in the litigation between the parties was an abuse of its discretion, and  the district court correctly determined that the parents' disagreement with one decision of one ALJ did not state a claim against the CDE. The judgment of the district court had to be affirmed.
This case began as a dispute over the results of CM's special education evaluation under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et seq. ("IDEA"), but now has a convoluted procedural history, including three separate district court lawsuits and two administrative complaints. Many of these issues are outside of the narrow scope of this appeal, however, and will not be addressed in this opinion.
This appeal is limited to two distinct issues. First, the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") dismissed several of CM's claims against Lafayette School District and the Lafayette Board of Education (collectively, "Lafayette") prior to holding a due process hearing because the claims alleged conduct outside the IDEA's two-year statute of limitations. CM's parents, MM and EM (collectively "MM"), sought review in the district court, which held that MM was not an "aggrieved party" under the IDEA because the ALJ had not yet held a due process hearing or issued a final ruling on MM's complaint. Second, the district court dismissed MM's separate claims against the California Department of Education ("CDE"), in which MM alleged that the CDE had failed to comply with its obligations under the IDEA when it closed its investigation of the allegations against Lafayette. MM claimed that the CDE had failed to properly supervise the hearing officers of the Office of Administrative Hearings. The district court held that MM's first claim was duplicative of his claim in another pending district court matter before the same judge, and that MM's second claim failed to state a claim. We affirm because MM prematurely filed his complaint against Lafayette in the district court and the CDE has no authority to supervise the independent hearing officers.
CM is a twelve-year-old boy who lives with his parents, MM and EM, within the boundaries of the Lafayette School District. CM began kindergarten in the Lafayette School District in 2005 when he was six years old. At the time, he displayed deficits in the areas of reading, articulation, vision, and fine motor skills. During kindergarten, the district provided special reading, speech, and language services to CM as a "guest" of the district's special education program. MM sub-mitted a written request to the district to evaluate CM for learning ...