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Dl, et al v. District of Columbia

April 25, 2012

DL, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Royce C. Lamberth, Chief Judge

MEMORANDUM & ORDER

Before the Court are defendants' Motion [307] for Reconsideration and plaintiffs' Motion [321] for Leave to File a Sur-Reply Brief to Defendants' Reply in Further Support of Motion for Reconsideration. For the reasons stated below, and in consideration of the entire record in this case and the applicable law, the Court will grant plaintiffs' Motion [321] for Leave to File a Sur-Reply and will grant in part and deny in part defendants' Motion [307] for Reconsideration.

I.BACKGROUND

In November 2011, this Court entered findings of fact and conclusions of law in this class action case, which concerns defendants' compliance with their obligations, under federal and local law, to provide special education and related services to preschool-aged children in the District of Columbia. See DL v. District of Columbia, No. 05-1437, 2011 WL 5555877, *1 (D.D.C. Nov. 16, 2011). In that opinion, the Court extended its holdings from an August 2010 opinion on the parties' motions for summary judgment, see DL v. District of Columbia, 730 F. Supp. 2d 84 (D.D.C. 2010), and found defendants liable for violations of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA"), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and related provisions of local law from 2008 until April 6, 2011. See DL, 2011 WL 5555877, at *15--20. The Court also entered a permanent injunction, requiring defendants, inter alia, to enact various reforms, to meet certain performance benchmarks, and to comply with certain reporting requirements. Id. at *21--26.

In December 2011, defendants appealed the Court's Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, as well as other orders, to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Defs.' Notice of Appeal [304] 1, Dec. 15, 2011. Defendants then filed a Motion for Reconsideration in this Court pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b), Defs.' Mot. Reconsideration [307] 1, Jan. 12, 2012, while also persuading the Court of Appeals to hold the appeal in abeyance pending this Court's resolution of the post-judgment Motion. See Order of USCA [319] 1, Mar. 20, 2012. Defendants acknowledge in their Motion some uncertainty, given the pending appeal, concerning whether this Court has jurisdiction. See Defs.' Mot. Reconsideration [307] 1 n.1.

Meanwhile, plaintiffs, engaged in negotiations with defendants over proposed modifications to the Court's injunction, requested a delay in the Court's resolution of defendants' Motion for Reconsideration while those negotiations proceeded. See, e.g., Pls.' Praecipe [320] 1, Apr. 5, 2012. Finally, on April 19, 2012, plaintiffs filed a Motion [321] for Leave to File a Sur-Reply Brief, attaching a Sur-Reply that would inform the Court of the issues resolved by the parties' negotiations while addressing arguments raised by defendants for the first time in their Reply to plaintiffs' Opposition to defendants' Motion for Reconsideration. See Pls.' Mot. Leave [321] 2, Apr. 19, 2012. Since plaintiffs' attached Sur-Reply addresses issues raised by defendants for the first time in their Reply, and because the Court finds that the Sur-Reply is helpful to the Court's resolution of defendants' Motion for Reconsideration, the Court will grant plaintiffs' Motion for Leave to File a Sur-Reply. See Ben-Kotel v. Howard Univ., 319 F.3d 532, 536 (D.C. Cir. 2003).

II.THIS COURT'S JURISDICTION TO MODIFY THE NOVEMBER 16, 2011 FINAL ORDER

The general rule is that "filing a notice of appeal . . . confers jurisdiction on the court of appeals and divests the district court of its control over those aspects of the case involved in the appeal." Griggs v. Provident Consumer Discount Co., 459 U.S. 56, 58 (1982). Jurisdiction is not regained until the court of appeals issues its mandate. U.S. v. DeFries, 129 F.3d 1293, 1302 (D.C. Cir. 1997). However, the Federal Rules state that "[w]hile an appeal is pending from an interlocutory order or final judgment that grants . . . an injunction, the court may suspend, modify, restore, or grant an injunction on terms for bond or other terms that secure the opposing party's rights." Fed. R. Civ. P. 62(c); see also Ayuda, Inc. v. Thornburgh, 919 F.2d 153, 47 (D.C. Cir. 1990) (Wald, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part). Rule 62(c) "codifies the inherent power of a court to preserve the status quo where in its sound discretion, the court deems the circumstances so justify." Christian Science Reading Room v. City & Cty. of San Francisco, 784 F.2d 1010, 1017 (9th Cir. 1986) (citations omitted). It does not, however, "restore jurisdiction to the district court to adjudicate anew the merits of the case." McClatchy Newspapers v. Cent. Valley Typographical Union No. 46, Int'l Typographical Union, 686 F.2d 731, 734 (9th Cir. 1982).

III.RECONSIDERATION UNDER RULE 54(b)

Rule 54(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure states that "any order . . . that adjudicates fewer than all the claims or the rights and liabilities of fewer than all the parties . . . may be revised at any time before the entry of a judgment adjudicating all the claims and all the parties' rights and liabilities." This rule authorizes a court to revise its interlocutory decisions any time prior to the entry of a final judgment. S.E.C. v. Bilzerian, 729 F. Supp. 2d 9, 13 (D.D.C. 2010). Relief upon reconsideration under Rule 54(b) is available "as justice requires."

Hoffman v. District of Columbia, 681 F. Supp. 2d 86, 90 (D.D.C. 2010). Justice may require reconsideration when (1) "there was a patent misunderstanding of the parties," (2) "where a decision was made that exceeded the issues presented," (3) "where a court failed to consider controlling law," or (4) "where a significant change in the law occurred after the decision was rendered." Pueschel v. Nat'l Air Traffic Controllers' Ass'n, 606 F. Supp. 2d 82, 85 (D.D.C. 2009).

IV.ANALYSIS

Defendants' Motion [307] for Reconsideration sought the following modifications of the Court's November 16, 2011 Final Order (ECF No. 295):

(1) Modifying paragraph A.1, which requires defendants to ensure that at least 8.5 percent of three- to five-year-olds are "enrolled" in special education and related services under IDEA Part B, to require defendants to ensure that such children are ...


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