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Loch v. Board of Education of Edwardsville Community School District #7

November 13, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Reagan, District Judge


Plaintiffs Thomas, Glenna and Kayla Loch ("the Lochs") move the Court to alter or amend the judgment entered in this action in accordance with FED. R. CIV. P. 7(b)(1), 59(e) and 60(b). (Doc. 198). The Lochs assert that the Court erred in making the following findings: (1) that the Lochs failed to exhaust administrative remedies; (2) that the Hearing Officer ("HO") did not err with regard to substantive and procedural Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA") claims; (3) that the District made every effort to follow Kayla's 504 plan; (4) that the Lochs were subjected to unfair surprise and prejudice; and (5) that the Lochs cannot establish a prima facie case of gender discrimination.

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) governs the Lochs's motion to alter or amend judgment.*fn1 A District Court may alter or amend a judgment under Rule 59(e) only "when there is newly discovered evidence or there has been a manifest error of law or fact." Harrington v. City of Chicago, 433 F.3d 542, 546 (7th Cir. 2006). Accord Publishers Resource, Inc. v. Walker-Davis Publications, Inc., 762 F.2d 557, 561 (7th Cir. 1985)(Rule 59(e) motions serve a limited function: "to correct manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly discovered evidence.").

Although Rule 59 relief is appropriate if the movant "presents newly discovered evidence that was not available at the time of trial or ... points to evidence in the record that clearly establishes a manifest error of law or fact,"such relief is not properly awarded based on arguments or theories that could have been proffered before the district court rendered judgment. County of McHenry v. Insurance Co. of the West, 438 F.3d 813, 819 (7th Cir. 2006) (citing LB Credit Corp. v. Resolution Trust Corp., 49 F.3d 1263 (7th Cir. 1995).

The Seventh Circuit has emphasized that Rule 59(e) may not be used to relitigate issues already argued or to present new arguments that could have been presented before judgment was entered. See, e.g., Caisse Nationale de Credit Agricole v. CBI Industries, Inc., 90 F.3d 1264, 1270 (7th Cir. 1996); Bally Export Corp. v. Balicar Ltd., 804 F.2d 398, 404 (7th Cir. 1986); Publishers, 762 F.2d at 561.

As recently reiterated by the Court of Appeals:

Motions to alter or amend judgments are no place to start giving evidence that could have been presented earlier.... ("Unlike the Emperor Nero, litigants cannot fiddle as Rome burns."). Litigation must sometime come to an end, and the limit on Rule 59 motions advances that goal.

Dal Pozzo v. Basic Machinery Co., Inc., 463 F.3d 609, 615 (7th Cir. 2006). Nor can a party use Rule 59(e) "to undo its own procedural failures." Harrington, 433 F.3d at 546 (citing Bordelon v. Chicago School Reform Bd. of Trustees, 233 F.3d 524, 529 (7th Cir. 2000).

The Lochs also cite to Rule 60(b), which authorizes a district court to relieve a party from a judgment for the following reasons: (1) mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect; (2) newly discovered evidence which by due diligence could not have been discovered sooner; (3) fraud; (4) a void judgment; (5) a judgment which has been satisfied or discharged; and (6) any other reason justifying relief from operation of the judgment. FED.R.CIV.P. 60(b).

Rule 60(b) is not a method for correcting simple legal errors but, instead allows courts to overturn decisions where "special circumstances justify an extraordinary remedy." Cash v. Illinois Div. of Mental Health, 209 F.3d 695, 698 (7th Cir. 2000). TheSeventh Circuit has emphasized that Rule 60(b) imposes an "exacting standard," and Rule 60(b) movants must demonstrate exceptional circumstances to prevail. Romo v. Gulf Stream Coach, Inc., 250 F.3d 1119, 1121 n.3 (7th Cir. 2001). Additionally, the Seventh Circuit has explained that the ground for setting aside a judgment under Rule 60(b) must be something that could not have been presented in a direct appeal. Bell v. Eastman Kodak Co., 214 F.3d 798, 801 (7th Cir. 2000).

In support of their motion to alter or amend judgment here, the Lochs either rehash arguments already presented to (and rejected by) OR assert facts which could have been (but were not) raised before the Court entered judgment. The Lochs have neither presented newly discovered evidence nor demonstrated a manifest error of law or fact. They have demonstrated -- and the record reveals -- no basis warranting relief under either Rule 59(b) or Rule 60(b). Nonetheless, with the above-stated principles in mind, the Court will address each of the Lochs's allegations in turn.

Exhaustion of Remedies

The Lochs contend that the Court erred in finding that they failed to exhaust administrative remedies. They argue that they "never raised or took issue with the District's medical and psychological evaluations and other assessment related tools utilized by the District to evaluate Kayla." To the contrary, in Count One, Kayla specifically alleged that the District's "evaluation process was largely inadequate, nor was it a complete and objective evaluation. Order, p. 9; Amended Complaint, p. 27. Kayla claimed, "The District's 'school team' who evaluated [her] did so in a haphazard manner and erred in their determination that [she] was ineligible for special education and related services." Id. As a result of these claims, the sufficiency of the District's evaluation was at issue in this proceeding. It was not, however, among the issues before the HO at the due process hearing, where Thomas Loch disagreed with the team's conclusions rather than with the sufficiency of the evaluation process.

The Lochs also contend that the Court erred in finding that merely requesting and attending an IDEA due process hearing was insufficient to exhaust claims under § 504, the ADA and § 1983. As the Court stated in its July 15th Order, although "the IDEA does not limit relief available under other laws[,] nonetheless, parties must exhaust their claims "to the same extent as would be required had the action been brought under this subchapter." Charlie F. by Neil F. v. Bd. of Educ. of Skokie School Dist. 68, 98 F.3d 989, 991 (7th Cir. 1996)(citing 20 U.S.C. § 1415(f). On this basis, the Court dismissed Thomas's and Glenna's claims of discrimination and retaliation, which were not included in the issues raised before the HO and, thus, were unexhausted. Furthermore, the Court found that, ...

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