United States District Court, District of Columbia
in Part Defendants' Motion to Dismiss
Rudolph Contreras, United States District Judge.
the doctrines of standing, ripeness, and mootness serve a
common purpose: to ensure that federal courts resolve only
“Cases” and “Controversies” within
the meaning of the Constitution. U.S. Const. art. III, §
2. This case presents the Court with questions involving all
three doctrines. The case arises out of regulations
promulgated in 2016 by the D.C. Office of the State
Superintendent of Education (“OSSE”) that impose
minimum education requirements on certain childcare providers
that operate in Washington. Plaintiffs are two childcare
providers and one parent who bring a number of challenges to
those education requirements. As the Court will explain
below, however, it is unable to reach the merits of
Plaintiffs' challenges at this juncture. The parent
Plaintiff, who is not herself subject to the regulations,
lacks standing because her asserted injuries are merely
conjectural. The childcare provider Plaintiffs' claims,
meanwhile, are either moot or unripe. This is because when
OSSE first promulgated the regulations, it provided that the
education requirements would not take effect for many years
and that waivers would be available under certain
circumstances. These protections were then expanded after
Plaintiffs initiated this lawsuit. Consequently, as things
currently stand, both Plaintiffs will be permitted to
continue working as childcare providers until December 2023,
and they may seek waivers in the interim. Because this state
of affairs leaves Plaintiffs' challenges unfit for
judicial adjudication at this time, the Court dismisses their
claims without prejudice.
within the Executive Office of the Mayor, OSSE
“serve[s] as the state education agency” for the
District of Columbia, D.C. Code § 38-2601.01, and is
authorized to “formulate and promulgate rules necessary
to carry out its functions, ” id. §
38-2602(b)(11). This authority includes the power to regulate
“staff qualification[s]” at any “child
development facility, ” id. - defined as a
“center, home, or other structure that provides care
and other services, supervision, and guidance for children,
infants, and toddlers on a regular basis” but is not
“a public or private elementary or secondary school
engaged in legally required educational and related functions
or a pre-kindergarten education program, ” id.
§ 7-2031(3). See Id. § 7-2036(a)(1)(A)
(delegating regulatory power to Mayor); Mayor's Order
2009-130, 56 D.C. Reg. 6883 (July 16, 2009) (Mayor in turn
delegating power to OSSE).
to its mandate, OSSE issued regulations on December 2, 2016
that set minimum education requirements for childcare staff
at these child development facilities. See generally
63 D.C. Reg. 14, 640-14, 813 (Dec. 2, 2016). The requirements
did not become immediately binding for most childcare
professionals, though; depending on the kind of staff
position at issue, the new regulations generally provided a
grace period of anywhere between three and six years.
See, e.g., 63 D.C. Reg. 14, 786, 14, 799 (original
versions of D.C. Mun. Regs. tit. 5-A1, §§ 164.1(b),
(c) and 170.2(a)(1)(2)). And the regulations provided that
OSSE could waive compliance with any of the education
requirements if it was presented with clear and convincing
evidence that (1) “[t]he demonstrated . . . economic
impact or hardship on the Facility or staff member [was]
sufficiently great to make immediate compliance impractical
despite diligent efforts;” (2) “[t]he facility or
staff member [was] meeting or exceeding the intent of the
regulation for which the waiver [was] requested; and”
(3) “[t]he health and welfare of staff and children
[we]re not jeopardized.” D.C. Mun. Regs. tit. 5A-1,
§ 106.1. The regulations also provided that certain
types of staff positions, though not all, would be subject to
experience waivers, available to individuals who had, as of
December 2016, “continuously served” in the
relevant staff position for ten or more years. Id.
§§ 164.3, 165.4.
the three Plaintiffs in this case are subject to the new
education requirements. Plaintiff Altagracia Sanchez is what
the regulations deem an “expanded home
caregiver.” See generally Id. §§
169-71. Since 2006, she has run a licensed daycare out of her
house, which currently cares for nine children. Compl.
¶¶ 143-45, ECF No. 1. Originally from the Dominican
Republic, Sanchez has a law degree from the Universidad
Autonoma de Santo Domingo. Compl. ¶¶ 137-38. But
Sanchez never went to college in the United States, so when
the regulations first went into effect, they required her to
obtain by December 2, 2019 an “associate's or more
advanced degree from an institution accredited by an agency
recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education or the Council
for Higher Education Accreditation, with a major in early
childhood education, early childhood development, child and
family studies or a closely related field.” 63 D.C.
Reg. 14, 799 (original version of D.C. Mun. Regs. tit. 5-A1,
§ 170.2); see also Compl. ¶¶ 153-54.
Such a degree would require roughly sixty credit hours of
classes, which according to Sanchez, would take at least five
years for her to earn as a part-time student. Compl. ¶
157. Sanchez's only other option at the time the
regulations first took effect was to seek a hardship waiver,
as the regulations did not make experience waivers available
to expanded home caregivers. See 63 D.C. Reg. 14,
799 (original version of D.C. Mun. Regs. tit. 5-A1, §
Dale Sorcher is what the regulations refer to as a
“teacher in a child development center.”
See D.C. Mun. Regs. tit. 5A-1, § 165. She works
with children up to the age of three at a licensed daycare
center associated with a Jewish preschool. Compl.
¶¶ 173-78. Sorcher already has a bachelor's
degree and two master's degrees, but none of them are in
a field related to early childhood. As first promulgated, the
OSSE regulations did make experience waivers available to
childhood development center teachers, but Sorcher had only
six years of continuous experience as a teacher as of
December 2016. See 63 D.C. Reg. 14, 791 (original
version of D.C. Mun. Regs. tit. 5-A1, § 165.4); Compl.
¶ 194. Consequently, the regulations required her to
obtain twenty-four college credit hours related to early
childhood by December 2, 2020, or seek a hardship waiver.
See 63 D.C. Reg. 14, 791 (original version of D.C.
Mun. Regs. tit. 5-A1, § 165.4).
Sanchez and Sorcher, the third Plaintiff, Jill Homan, is not
herself subject to OSSE's regulations. Homan is a
consumer of childcare services rather than a provider: her
young daughter attends a licensed daycare center where the
staff members will need to meet OSSE's new education
requirements. Compl. ¶¶ 204, 212. Homan “is
afraid that the caregivers she trusts will not be able to
comply with the college requirement and will lose their
jobs.” Compl. ¶ 214. And she worries “that
day-care providers who are exhausted, stressed, and
overwhelmed by having to attend college, work full time, and
care for their own families . . . will provide worse care
than those who do not have to worry about attending
school.” Id. ¶ 215.
three Plaintiffs brought this lawsuit against OSSE and the
District of Columbia itself in April 2018. Seeking
declaratory and injunctive relief, the complaint alleged that
the education requirements (1) exceeded the authority
lawfully delegated to OSSE; (2) violated their Fifth
Amendment substantive due process rights to pursue honest
livings and make reasonable childcare choices; and (3) drew
“arbitrary and irrational” distinctions between
childcare providers, in violation of the Fifth
Amendment's guarantee of equal protection. Compl.
¶¶ 228- 53. When the complaint was filed, neither
Sanchez nor Sorcher had applied for a hardship waiver because
their understanding was that OSSE would not make the waiver
applications “available until the college requirement
was ‘closer' to coming into effect-2019 for
expanded-home day-care caregivers . . . and 2020 for day-care
center teachers.” Id. ¶ 61. In the
meantime, Sanchez and Sorcher claimed that they would need to
begin enrolling in college courses immediately in order to
give themselves a chance of meeting their respective
deadlines- December 2019 for Sanchez and December 2020 for
2018, however, after Plaintiffs filed their complaint, OSSE
amended its regulations to extend both of these deadlines to
December 2023. 65 D.C. Reg. 7034-7036 (June 29, 2018);
see also D.C. Mun. Regs. tit. 5-A1 §§
165.1(d), 170.2(a)(2). The amendments also made experience
waivers available to expanded home caregivers like Sanchez.
65 D.C. Reg. 7037; see also D.C. Mun. Regs. tit.
5-A1 § 170.2(c). Relying heavily on these changes to the
regulations, Defendants responded to the complaint by filing
a motion to dismiss, in which they argue primarily that the
Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction because Plaintiffs do
not have standing. But according to Defendants, even if
Plaintiffs do have standing, the complaint still fails to
adequately state a claim. Each of these reasons, Defendants
say, independently require the Court to dismiss
Plaintiffs' claims with prejudice.
Rule 12(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, courts
must dismiss any claim over which they lack subject matter
jurisdiction. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1). Rule 12(b)(6), by
contrast, requires courts to dismiss any claim upon which
relief could not be granted even if jurisdiction was proper.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). When these two rules are invoked
together, a court must first address the issues encompassed
by Rule 12(b)(1), as those issues implicate the ...