responsibility of plaintiff School District No. 218.
On September 12, 1994, School District No. 218 proposed an Interim Educational Plan (IEP) under which it agreed to fund J.B.'s placement at Kidspeace until it completed a full evaluation of J.B.'s educational needs. Two days later, J.B.'s parents challenged the proposed IEP by requesting another Level I due process hearing. School District No. 218 filed a motion to join both the DMHDD and the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) as parties to the Level I hearing, but this motion was denied by the Level I hearing officer.
On February 2, 1994, prior to the resolution of the Level I due process hearing, School District No. 218 convened a second multidisciplinary IEP conference and determined that J.B.'s educational needs could be met by a therapeutic day school rather than a twenty-four hour residential care facility. The School District invited the DMHDD to send a representative to the IEP conference on February 2, 1994, but the DMHDD elected not to participate. J.B.'s parents then challenged the outcome of this IEP conference in its pending Level I due process hearing.
On March 19, 1995, the Level I hearing officer ordered School District No. 218 to continue funding the full cost of J.B.'s placement at Kidspeace. This decision was affirmed by a Level II hearing officer on June 12, 1995. Moreover, the Level II hearing officer affirmed the lower hearing officer's decision to deny the School District's motion to join the Agency Defendants in the hearing.
Plaintiff, School District No. 218, then filed a complaint in this court against the ISBE and the DMHDD (collectively, Agency Defendants); Joseph A. Spagnolo, in his official capacity as the Illinois State Superintendent of Education, and Anna Patla, in her official capacity as the Director of the DMHDD (collectively, Director Defendants); and Mr. and Mrs. B., the parents of J.B. (collectively, Parent Defendants). The substance of the complaint is reviewed in detail below.
On October 27, 1995, Parent Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the complaint. First, they assert that the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over plaintiff's claims against the Direct and Agency Defendants inasmuch as those defendants were not parties in the underlying administrative hearings.
Second, they claim that plaintiff has failed to allege any injury by Agency Defendants. Third, they argue that there is no private right of action to enforce the regulatory provisions of the IDEA. The court addresses these issues in turn.
The court may dismiss a complaint "only if it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of its claim that would entitle it to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 2 L. Ed. 2d 80, 78 S. Ct. 99 (1957). In making this determination, the court "must view plaintiff's allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Oswalt v. Godinez, 894 F. Supp. 1181, 1183-84 (N.D. Ill. 1995) (citation omitted). Consequently, "all well-pleaded facts and allegations in the plaintiff's complaint must be taken as true," and the "plaintiff is entitled to all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom." Id. at 1184 (citation omitted).
A. Subject Matter Jurisdiction
Parent Defendants assert that the court lacks jurisdiction over the subject matter of the School District's claims against Agency and Director Defendants because those defendants were not parties to the underlying administrative hearings. Plaintiff counters that the attorney for Parent Defendants is without authority to act on behalf of either Agency or Director Defendants and is therefore barred from seeking the dismissal of claims against them. To resolve this issue, the court must first decide whether an attorney may object to the court's jurisdiction over a claim that runs exclusively against a party that the attorney does not represent. Second, the court must decide whether it has subject matter jurisdiction over the School District's claims against Agency and Director Defendants even though they were not parties in the underlying due process hearings.
The federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, and in this capacity they exercise only such powers as derive from the Constitution and the laws of the United States. Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of America, 511 U.S. 375, 114 S. Ct. 1673, 1675, 128 L. Ed. 2d 391 (1994); see also Chicago & G.T. Ry. Co. v. Wellman, 143 U.S. 339, 345, 36 L. Ed. 176, 12 S. Ct. 400 (1892) ("federal courts may exercise power only in the last resort and as a necessity"). It is axiomatic that parties cannot create federal jurisdiction over the subject matter of a claim by stipulation. Muskegon Theatres, Inc. v. City of Muskegon, 507 F.2d 199 (6th Cir. 1974); see also Mansfield, C. & L.M. Ry. Co. v. Swan, 111 U.S. 379, 384, 28 L. Ed. 462, 4 S. Ct. 510 (1884) (judicial power "must not be exerted in a case to which it does not extend, even if both parties desire to have it exerted"). The burden of establishing federal subject matter jurisdiction rests squarely upon the party that invokes it. Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561, 119 L. Ed. 2d 351, 112 S. Ct. 2130 (1992).
In order to remain within the narrow boundaries of authority conferred upon them by Congress and the Constitution, the federal courts must respond to jurisdictional objections from any quarter. The federal courts have an independent obligation to ascertain the existence of their own subject matter jurisdiction in the absence of objections from the parties. Mansfield, 111 U.S. at 382 ("court is bound to ask and answer [the question of jurisdiction] for itself, even when not otherwise suggested, and without respect to the relation of the parties before it"). If indeed the courts may raise jurisdictional objections sua sponte, then they may certainly entertain such objections from the parties. Indeed, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(h)(3) contemplates that jurisdictional objections shall be made "by suggestion of the parties or otherwise." The attorney for Parent Defendants did not, therefore, exceed her authority by questioning the court's subject matter jurisdiction over claims running exclusively against her co-defendants.
The court now considers whether it has subject matter jurisdiction over plaintiff's claims against Agency and Director Defendants, who were not parties in the underlying IDEA hearings. Parent Defendants suggest that the IDEA limits the jurisdiction of the federal courts to claims that run between the actual parties to an underlying administrative due process hearing. Because the Agency and Director Defendants were not parties to the underlying hearings, they argue, this court has no subject matter jurisdiction over the School District's claims against them.
For reasons that will become apparent in section II.B., infra, the court limits it analysis here to plaintiff's claim for an order requiring the DMHDD to fund the residential portion of J.B.'s placement at Kidspeace. This claim derives from Illinois law, which allows the DMHDD to provide Individual Care Grants to fund the residential treatment of mentally ill children. See, generally 59 Ill. Admin. Code § 135 et seq. The court believes that the allocation of costs among the various state agencies here is a matter of state concern, and therefore treats this as a state law claim for purposes of its jurisdictional analysis.
The IDEA confers original jurisdiction on the federal district courts to decide appeals from administrative due process hearings conducted under 20 U.S.C. § 1415. The IDEA provides that
any party aggrieved by the findings and decision made [in an administrative hearing conducted under 20 U.S.C. § 1415(b)(2) or (c)] shall have the right to bring a civil action with respect to the complaint presented pursuant to this section, which action may be brought in any State court of competent jurisdiction or in a district court of the United States.
20 U.S.C. § 1415(e)(2). This section does not, however, confer original jurisdiction over state law claims against third parties who did not participate in the hearing.
The court's jurisdiction over such claims must therefore be treated as a matter of supplemental jurisdiction. In 1990, Congress authorized the federal courts to exercise supplemental jurisdiction by enacting 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a). This statute provides in relevant part that
in any civil action of which the district courts have original jurisdiction, the district courts shall have supplemental jurisdiction over all other claims that are so related to claims in the action within such original jurisdiction that they form part of the same case or controversy under Article III of the United States Constitution. Such supplemental jurisdiction shall include claims that involve the joinder or intervention of additional parties.
28 U.S.C. § 1367(a). With this statute, Congress intended to "codify rather than to alter the [existing] judge-made principles of pendent and pendent party jurisdiction." Brazinski v. Amoco Petroleum Additives Co., 6 F.3d 1176, 1182 (7th Cir. 1993). These principles were expressed in United Mine Workers of America v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 16 L. Ed. 2d 218, 86 S. Ct. 1130 (1966), where the Supreme Court held that a court may exercise supplemental jurisdiction over a state claim if the substance of the federal claim is sufficient to confer jurisdiction on the court, and if the state and federal claims derive from a common nucleus of operative fact. Id. at 725.
Inasmuch as this court has clear jurisdiction under the IDEA to review the administrative order entered against the School District, 20 U.S.C. § 1415(e)(2), it need only determine whether the School District's state claim against the DMHDD is so closely related to its federal claim that it may be said to derive from a common nucleus of operative fact and to constitute part of the same case or controversy under Article III.
Here, the court has no difficulty concluding that the School District's state law claim against the DMHDD derives from the same nucleus of operative fact as its federal IDEA claim. At root, these claims both relate to J.B.'s educational placement and the means by which it should be funded. Notably, Parent Defendants advance no argument that the state claim is factually separable from the federal claim. While they assert correctly that the court has no original jurisdiction over the School District's state law claim against the DMHDD, they ignore the possibility that the court may exercise supplemental jurisdiction over this claim. The court concludes, then, that it has supplemental jurisdiction over the School District's claim for an order requiring the DMHDD to pay for J.B.'s residential care.
The court does not, however, purport to evaluate the substance of this claim. In particular, it does not suggest that Illinois law authorizes a School District to seek a declaration that the DMHDD is liable for the cost of a student's residential care. This issue has not been treated by the parties, and the court is unwilling to address it at this time.
Parent Defendants argue that the School District lacks standing to assert its claims against Agency and Director Defendants. The doctrine of standing derives from Article III of the United States Constitution, which limits the jurisdiction of the federal courts to hear only "actual cases and controversies." Simon v. Eastern Ky. Welfare Rights Org., 426 U.S. 26, 37, 48 L. Ed. 2d 450, 96 S. Ct. 1917 (1976) (constitutional limitation of federal court jurisdiction to actual cases and controversies is fundamental to proper role of judiciary). The Constitution imposes three standing requirements upon litigants:
First, the plaintiff must have suffered an injury in fact--an invasion of a legally protected interest which is (a) concrete and particularized and (b) actual or imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical. Second, there must be a causal connection between the injury and the conduct complained of--the injury has to be fairly traceable to the challenged action of the defendant, and not the result of the independent action of some third party not before the court. Third, it must be likely as opposed to merely speculative, that the injury will be redressed by a favorable decision.