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BARBARA Z. v. OBRADOVICH

July 3, 1996

BARBARA Z., on her own behalf and as parent and next friend of DEVIN Z., a minor, Plaintiff,
v.
GEORGE OBRADOVICH, BOARD OF EDUCATION OF DISTRICT # 156, ILLINOIS STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION AND ELLEN J. ALEXANDER, Defendants. BOARD OF EDUCATION OF DISTRICT # 156, Defendant/Third-Party Plaintiff, v. THE ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF MENTAL HEALTH AND DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES, et al., Third-party Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: ANDERSEN

 Board of Education of District # 156 (the "School District") brings a First Amended Cross-Claim against the Illinois State Board of Education ("ISBE") and a First Amended Third-Party Complaint against the Illinois Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities ("DMHDD")(collectively the "State Agencies") seeking damages and injunctive relief under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. § 1401 et seq. (the "IDEA"), section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794, and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The parties have filed cross-motions for summary judgment. For the following reasons, the motions are granted in part and denied in part.

 BACKGROUND

 This case arises out of a dispute regarding the appropriate educational placement of Devin Z., a severely disabled child who resides in the School District and is eligible for services under the IDEA. On June 10, 1993, the School District conducted a multi-disciplinary staff conference to evaluate Devin's special education needs. Following the conference, the School District recommended that Devin attend a public school day program.

 On June 14, 1994, Barbara Z., as Devin's mother and on behalf of her son, sought review of the Level I and Level II administrative decisions in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois pursuant to the IDEA, 20 U.S.C. § 1415(e)(2). She named the School District and its superintendent, ISBE, and the Level II Review Officer as defendants. On August 1, 1994, she also filed a motion for a mandatory preliminary injunction to obtain 24-hour residential placement for Devin.

 On August 2, 1994, the School District filed a cross-claim against ISBE and a third-party complaint against DMHDD seeking attorney's fees for litigating at the administrative levels and contribution for Barbara's Z.'s legal fees should she prevail in the underlying litigation. The School District further requested this Court to order the State Agencies to create an agreement that would reimburse the School District for a portion of Devin's 24-hour placement if necessary. On August 24, 1994, ISBE notified the School District that it would be fully reimbursed for all costs of residential placement if that placement was ordered by this Court.

 A hearing on the motion for a mandatory preliminary injunction was held on September 7 and 9 of 1994. The School District contested the motion arguing that its proposed public school day program was the appropriate educational placement for Devin. On September 16, 1994, we granted the motion and ordered that Devin be placed in a 24-hour residential program at the Center on Deafness pending outcome of the judicial proceedings.

 On October 28, 1994, the School District filed the instant three-count First Amended Cross-Claim (the "cross-claim") against ISBE and two-count First Amended Third-Party Complaint (the "third-party complaint") against DMHDD. Count I of the cross-claim and third-party complaint alleges that the State Agencies have failed to enter into an intergovernmental agreement defining the financial responsibilities of each agency for providing children with disabilities access to an appropriate educational program as required by section 1413(a)(13) of the IDEA. Additionally, Count I alleges that the lack of an interagency agreement caused the School District to engage in costly and time-consuming administrative due process and judicial proceedings to address whether residential placement was necessary to meet Devin's educational and mental health needs. Count II of the cross-claim alleges that these same acts and omissions violated section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794(a). Similarly, Count III of the cross-claim and Count II of the third-party complaint allege that the same acts and omissions violated 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

 The School District seeks the following relief from the State Agencies: (1) reimbursement for the costs of Devin's residential placement; (2) reimbursement for the attorney's fees which the School District was required to pay Barbara Z. as a prevailing party in the underlying litigation; and (3) declaratory and injunctive relief compelling the State Agencies to comply with the IDEA by developing and implementing the required intergovernmental agreement setting forth the financial responsibilities of each state agency charged with administering the IDEA.

 On December 19, 1994, the School District issued a draft payable to Barbara Z. in the amount of $ 94,474.60. This payment represented attorney's fees and costs allegedly incurred by Barbara Z. as a prevailing party in the underlying litigation. See 20 U.S.C. § 1415(e)(4)(B).

 On May 15, 1995, Barbara Z. and the School District stipulated to a voluntary dismissal of all claims pending between the parties in the underlying litigation pursuant to a settlement agreement. This settlement and stipulation did not extend to the School District's cross-claim against ISBE or third-party complaint against DMHDD.

 On December 19, 1995, counsel for the School District and the State Agencies appeared before this Court for a status hearing. At that time, the State Agencies informed the Court that there is now an interagency agreement as required by section 1413(a)(13) of the IDEA. Counsel for the School District, however, asserted that the agreement did not comply with the requirements of the Act and, consequently, requested further briefing on the issue. We denied this request and delayed ruling on the pending motions in lieu of a possible settlement of the remaining claims. After settlement negotiations stalled, the parties requested a ruling on the instant cross-motions for summary judgment which we now address. *fn1"

 The School District contends that it is entitled to summary judgment on all claims because: (1) the IDEA requires that as a prerequisite to receiving federal funds, each state must submit a plan which describes in detail the goals, programs, and timetables under which the state intends to educate children with disabilities within its borders; (2) the State Agencies have admitted that the Illinois State Plan does not comply with the IDEA because it does not contain an interagency agreement which describes the obligations of the state agencies charged with ensuring the education of children with disabilities, nor did such an interagency agreement exist at any time during the administrative and court proceedings held to determine the appropriate placement for Devin; and, (3) as a result of the State Agencies' failure to develop and enter into such an interagency agreement as required by the IDEA, the School District has suffered harm in the nature of both unnecessarily incurred attorney's fees and costs, and costs associated with Devin's residential placement.

 The State Agencies argue that they are entitled to summary judgment on the following grounds: (1) the School District lacks standing to bring this suit under the IDEA; (2) the lack of an interagency agreement as required by section 1413(a)(13) of the IDEA is immaterial to this case and did not compel the School District to litigate Devin's placement; and, (3) the School District is not a proper plaintiff under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

 STANDARD

 Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that summary judgment shall be rendered "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Salima v. Scherwood South, Inc., 38 F.3d 929, 932 (7th Cir. 1994). A genuine issue for trial exists only when "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986).

 The moving party bears the burden of demonstrating that there is an absence of evidence to support the position of the nonmoving party. Doe v. R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co., 42 F.3d 439, 442-43 (7th Cir. 1994). Even though all reasonable inferences are drawn in favor of the party opposing the motion, Associated Milk Producers, Inc. v. Meadow Gold Dairies, Inc., 27 F.3d 268, 270 (7th Cir. 1994), presenting only a scintilla of evidence will not suffice to oppose a motion for summary judgment. Walker v. Shansky, 28 F.3d 666, 671 (7th Cir. 1994).

 In making its determination, the Court's sole function is to determine "whether there is any material dispute of fact that requires a trial." Waldridge v. American Hoechst Corp., 24 F.3d 918 (7th Cir. 1994). Credibility determinations, weighing evidence, and drawing reasonable inferences are jury functions, not those of a judge when deciding a motion for summary judgment. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255.

 When, as here, cross-motions for summary judgment have been submitted, the Court is not obliged to grant judgment as a matter of law for one side or the other. California Union Ins. Co. v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 920 F. Supp. 908, 918 (N.D.Ill. 1996)(citing Heublein, Inc. v. United States, 996 F.2d 1455, 1461 (2nd Cir. 1993). The Court must evaluate each party's motion on its own merits, resolving all factual uncertainties and drawing all reasonable inferences against the party whose motion is ...


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