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Beown v. District of Columbia

United States District Court, District of Columbia

April 30, 2019

STEPHON BROWN, Plaintiff,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          RANDOLPH D. MOSS, United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Stephon Brown, a lifelong resident of the District of Columbia, was convicted of a felony under the D.C. Code and incarcerated in a Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) facility pursuant to the National Capital Revitalization and Self Government Improvement Act of 1997, Pub. L. No. 105-33, § 11201, 111 Stat. 251, 734 (1997) (codified at D.C. Code § 24-101) [hereinafter “Revitalization Act”]. While incarcerated, Brown was not afforded “any special education services” under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”), 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et seq., because both the BOP and the District denied responsibility for providing him a free and appropriate education (“FAPE”). Dkt. 25 at 1, 5. The BOP argued that, as a federal entity, it is not subject to the IDEA, Dkt. 16 at 8-9, and the District argued that its responsibilities to Brown ended when he entered into BOP custody, Dkt. 14 at 6-7. Caught in a legal limbo, Brown sued both Defendants for violating the IDEA. Dkt. 1 (Compl.).

         The Court previously held that, under the plain language of the IDEA, the District-and not the BOP-was obligated to provide Brown a FAPE while he was in BOP custody. See Brown v. District of Columbia, 324 F.Supp.3d 154, 159-60, 162 (D.D.C. 2018). The District now asks the Court to reconsider that decision, arguing that (1) § 1415(k)(6) of the IDEA “precludes” the Court's interpretation “because the Court's interpretation would . . . conflict with the legitimate law enforcement aims of the BOP and the Superior Court for the District of Columbia, ” Dkt. 39 at 1; (2) the Court misconstrued the District's argument as positing that the Revitalization Act impliedly repealed the IDEA as applied to D.C. felons incarcerated by the BOP, id. at 13; and (3) in any event, the Revitalization Act did, in fact, shift responsibility from the District to the BOP for the education of D.C. felons incarcerated by the BOP, id. at 14-16. The Court is unpersuaded and will, accordingly, DENY the District's motion for reconsideration. Dkt. 39.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The background of this matter is discussed in detail in Magistrate Judge Harvey's Report and Recommendation (“R&R”), Dkt. 25, and in this Court's prior opinion, see Brown, 324 F.Supp.3d at 158-59. To summarize, Plaintiff is a lifelong resident of the District who has been eligible for special education and related services since elementary school. Id. at 158. In 2014, when he was eighteen, Plaintiff was arrested and charged with violating D.C. law. Id. While awaiting trial, Plaintiff was held at the D.C. Central Detention Facility, where he continued to receive special education services pursuant to his Individualized Education Program (“IEP”). Dkt. 25 at 5. After he was tried and convicted as an adult, however, Plaintiff was transferred to the Hazelton Federal Correctional Institution (“FCI”), and those services ceased. Id. Only after his release in November 2016, when Plaintiff resumed his high school education, did he once again receive special education services pursuant to the IDEA. Id.

         Shortly before his release from FCI Hazelton, Plaintiff filed a due process complaint against the District and the BOP, alleging that he was denied access to a FAPE while incarcerated. Id. at 6. The Hearing Officer dismissed Plaintiff's complaint against the BOP on the ground that the federal government is not subject to the IDEA and dismissed his complaint against the District on the ground that the IDEA does not impose any responsibilities on state or local officials while an individual with disabilities is incarcerated at a federal correctional facility. Id. at 6-8. Plaintiff then brought suit in this Court, seeking to set aside the Hearing Officer's determination, and the Court referred the matter to a magistrate judge for an R&R. Brown, 324 F.Supp.3d at 158.

         As explained in greater detail in this Court's prior opinion, Magistrate Judge Harvey rejected the Hearing Officer's conclusion that the combination of the IDEA and the Revitalization Act created a “Special Education No. Man's Land” in which neither the BOP nor the District has any obligation to provide benefits under the IDEA to individuals convicted of violating D.C. law who are incarcerated at a BOP facility. Id. The R&R concluded that the IDEA does not apply to the BOP; rather, the statute applies only to states eligible to receive federal funds under the IDEA. Dkt. 25 at 14-20. That conclusion, however, did not leave children incarcerated in federal facilities without IDEA benefits because the R&R reasoned that “a FAPE is triggered by a child's residency, ” and that obligation is not terminated when the child is in federal custody. Id. at 21.

         Plaintiff filed timely objections to the R&R's conclusion that the IDEA does not bind the BOP, Dkt. 26, and the District filed timely objections to the R&R's conclusion that its obligations under the IDEA continued while Plaintiff was held in BOP custody, Dkt. 27. The Court adopted in full the R&R's conclusion and analysis with respect to the BOP. Brown, 324 F.Supp.3d at 157. With respect to the District, the Court's analysis differed from the R&R in two respects. First, the Court concluded that it was unnecessary to resolve the question whether all states are responsible for ensuring that their residents who are incarcerated in federal prisons receive FAPEs. Id. at 160. Although noting that the R&R's reasoning carried “considerable force, ” the Court limited its analysis to the question whether children who are convicted as adults for violations of D.C. law and who are incarcerated by the BOP pursuant to the Revitalization Act are-like all other children serving prison sentences for state-law violations-entitled to FAPEs. Id. Second, the Court concluded that it needed to resolve the question whether the requirement that Plaintiff exhaust his administrative remedies under the Rehabilitation Act posed a jurisdictional bar to that claim, and the Court concluded that the requirement, in this context, is non-jurisdictional. Id. at 162-64. Having reached that conclusion, the Court went on to consider Plaintiff's Rehabilitation Act claim on the merits and agreed with the conclusion set forth in the R&R that the claim lacked merit. Id. at 163. The Court, accordingly, granted the BOP's motion to dismiss and granted in part and denied in part the District's motion to dismiss. Id.

         Approximately a month later, the District filed the instant motion for reconsideration. Dkt. 39. Plaintiff opposed that motion, Dkt. 47, and the District filed a reply brief, Dkt. 48.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Because the Court has yet to enter final judgment, the District's motion for reconsideration is governed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b), which permits the Court to revisit any order that adjudicates “fewer than all the claims or rights and liabilities of fewer than all the parties . . . at any time” before the entry of final judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 54(b). Reconsideration of interlocutory orders is permitted “as justice requires.” Cobell v. Jewell, 802 F.3d 12, 25 (D.C. Cir. 2015) (citation omitted). Courts in this Circuit have recognized that relief is appropriate “when the movant demonstrates: ‘(1) an intervening change in the law; (2) the discovery of new evidence not previously available; or (3) a clear error in the first order.'” Murphy v. Exec. Office for U.S. Attorneys, 11 F.Supp.3d 7, 8 (D.D.C. 2014) (quoting Zeigler v. Potter, 555 F.Supp.2d 126, 129 (D.D.C. 2008)); see also Keystone Tobacco Co. v. U.S. Tobacco Co., 217 F.R.D. 235, 237 (D.D.C. 2003). Although the decision whether to reconsider an order lies within the Court's sound discretion, considerations of judicial economy and the obligation of the courts “to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 1, require “good reason” before reopening matters once resolved. In Def. of Animals v. Nat'l Insts. of Health, 543 F.Supp.2d 70, 76 (D.D.C. 2008).

         II. ANALYSIS

         The District moves for reconsideration on three grounds. First, it argues that the Court “failed to address the District's argument regarding the implications of 20 U.S.C. § 1415(k)(6), ” which, according to the District, precludes the application of the IDEA to individuals in BOP custody. Dkt. 39 at 5 (capitalization omitted); see also Id. at 5-13; Dkt. 48 at 3. Second, the District contends that the Court's holding that the Revitalization Act did not impliedly repeal the IDEA as applied to D.C. Code felons incarcerated by the BOP “was a question not squarely presented to the Court and [was] not necessary to resolving the parties' dispute.” Dkt. 39 at 13- 14. Third, the District argues that “reading the relevant statutes all together, the District ceased being responsible for the education of D.C. Code felons in BOP custody by application of the Revitalization Act.” Dkt. 48 at 2. For the reasons explained below, the Court is unpersuaded.

         A. Subsection ...


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