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Argueta v. Government of District of Columbia

January 27, 2005

RUTH ARGUETA, MOTHER AND NEXT FRIEND OF THE MINOR CHILD JOSE HENRIQUEZ, PLAINTIFF,
v.
GOVERNMENT OF DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Royce C. Lamberth, United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter comes before the court on plaintiff's motion for summary judgment ("Pl. Mot."). Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment and opposition to plaintiff's motion for summary judgment ("Def. Mot."). Plaintiff then filed an opposition to defendant's motion for summary judgment and a reply to defendant's opposition to plaintiff's motion for summary judgment ("Pl. Opp'n"). Upon consideration of the filings and the applicable law, the Court will grant Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and deny defendant's motion for summary judgment.

I. Background

Jose is a seven-year-old District of Columbia Public Schools ("DCPS") student who has multiple learning disabilities. (Compl. ¶¶ 4 and 5). Jose's education twice before has been the subject of Individuals with Disability Act ("IDEA") hearings. (Administrative Hr'g Tr., 8). School authorities developed Jose's Individualized Education Program ("IEP") in 2001, and placed him in a full-time special education program. (Id.). In this program, Jose received occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech and language therapy, counseling, and specialized instruction. (Id. at 8-9).

Jose's evaluation team met again on May 13, 2003, to assess the appropriateness of his IEP. (Id. at 9). They determined Jose was making progress but that he needed new evaluations; however, these new evaluations never were performed. (Id.). On November 14, 2003, pursuant to IDEA, Jose's mother requested an administrative due process hearing regarding Jose's educational needs. (Compl. Attach. 1, Hearing Officer's Decision, at 3). The hearing was convened on December 17, 2003. (Id. at 1). Hearing Officer Nadine Evans presided, (Id.), and issued an order on January 20, 2004. (Id. at 9).

Plaintiff contends Evans erred on four points. Plaintiff alleges the errors consist of (1) ceding authority to determine if Jose is entitled to compensatory education to a Multi- Disciplinary Team ("MDT"), in light of her finding that DCPS had failed to carry its burden of proving it had provided Jose with a free and appropriate public education (Compl ¶ 20); (2) limiting compensatory educational services from the period of September, 2003, to the date of the MDT meeting (Compl ¶ 22); (3) failing to consider the allegation that defendant failed to provide specialized education as per Jose's IEP for three school years (Compl ¶ 24), and (4) failing to incorporate in her Order the defendant's agreement to fund an independent assistive technology evaluation. (Compl ¶ 26). Plaintiff further claims defendant violated Jose's due process rights by failing to convene a hearing and failing to ensure a final order was issued within the statutorily required time period. (Compl ¶¶ 28 and 30).

Plaintiff seeks summary judgment that awards plaintiff compensatory education services, or, in the alternative, summary judgment that remands the case to the administrative hearing officer for purposes of holding a hearing pursuant to IDEA to determine the amount, form, and delivery of compensatory services. (Pl. Mot. at 1). Defendant opposes plaintiff's motion, and seeks summary judgment on the grounds that Hearing Officer Evans' order was reasonable. (Def. Mot. at 7).

II. Applicable Law

A. Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is appropriate under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c) when no genuine issue of material fact exists. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). A genuine issue of material fact exists if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). As with Rule 12(b)(6) motions for dismissal, facts and inferences drawn from those facts must be viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157 (1970). Summary judgment may still be granted, however, if evidence favoring the non-moving party is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50 (citations omitted). Once the moving party files a proper summary judgment motion, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to produce "specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e); Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250. For a non-moving party to establish a genuine issue for trial exists, it must do more than simply show there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986).

Local Rule of Civil Procedure 56.1 sets forth specific procedures for parties to follow when moving for summary judgment. "Each motion for summary judgment shall be accompanied by a statement of material facts as to which the moving party contends there is no genuine issue..." (emphasis added) LCvR 56.1. A party's opposition to summary judgment "shall be accompanied by a separate concise statement of genuine issues setting forth all material facts as to which it is contended there exists a genuine issue necessary to be litigated, which shall include references to the parts of the record relied on to support the statement." (emphasis added) Id.; see Burke v. Gould, 286 F.3d 513, 517 (D.C. Cir. 2002). This procedure "isolates the facts that the parties assert are material, distinguishes disputed from undisputed facts, and identifies the pertinent parts of the record." Burke, 286 F.3d at 517 (citing Gardels v. Cent. Intelligence Agency, 637 F.2d 770, 773 (D.C. Cir. 1980)). Moreover, the rule provides that when deciding a motion for summary judgment, "the court may assume that facts identified by the moving party in its statement of material facts are admitted, unless such a fact is controverted in the statement of genuine issues filed in opposition to the motion." (emphasis added) LCvR 56.1.

B. IDEA

IDEA "confers upon disabled students an enforceable substantive right to public education... and conditions federal financial assistance upon a State's compliance with the substantive and procedural goals of the Act." Honig v. John Doe, 484 U.S. 305, 310 (1988).*fn1

The goal of IDEA is to ensure that all children are afforded "a free and appropriate public education... designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for employment and ...


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