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Jordan S., et al v. Board of Education of the City of Chicago

June 28, 2012

JORDAN S., ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE CITY OF CHICAGO, DISTRICT 299 DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Samuel Der-yeghiayan, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This matter is before the court on the parties' cross motions for summary judgment. For the reasons stated below, Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment is granted, and Defendant's motion for summary judgment is denied.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs allege that Jordan S. was a fourteen year-old eighth-grader at the beginning of the 2010-2011 school year, and that he attended a Chicago Public School. Jordan S. was allegedly eligible for special education services beginning in 2004, when he was in first grade. According to Plaintiffs, when he entered eighth grade, Jordan S. "was functioning significantly below grade level in all academic areas." (Compl. Par. 6). In December of 2010, Plaintiffs allegedly requested independent educational evaluations at the expense of Chicago Public Schools (CPS). In early January 2011, Plaintiffs allegedly filed a due process request, asserting that CPS has denied Jordan S. a free and appropriate public education and making various requests in addition to the request for an independent educational evaluation. A hearing officer (Hearing Officer) was allegedly appointed to conduct a due process hearing (Hearing) on the matter.

The Hearing Officer allegedly identified the issues to be addressed at the Hearing, and in early May 2011, conducted the Hearing over four days. After the Hearing, the Hearing Officer found that Jordan S. "was denied a free and appropriate education in that [CPS] failed to properly evaluate and identify [the] extent of [his] disabilities, failed to develop and implement an appropriate [Individualized Education Program], and failed to provide appropriate related services." (Compl. Par. 13). The Hearing Officer entered an order providing various educational services to Jordan S. (Original Order), and later entered an additional order clarifying the Original Order.

Plaintiffs allege that they are prevailing parties in the administrative proceedings against CPS. Plaintiffs allegedly submitted claims to CPS totaling $50,724.96, which represents a claim for $47,785.98 in attorneys' fees related to the Hearing, and a claim for $2,938.98 incurred in connection with implementing the orders entered by the Hearing Officer. CPS has allegedly refused to pay the requested amount. Plaintiffs include in their complaint a claim for $50,724.96 brought pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et seq. Both parties now move for summary judgment on the claim.

LEGAL STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate when the record, viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, reveals that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56; Smith v. Hope School, 560 F.3d 694, 699 (7th Cir. 2009). A "genuine issue" of material fact in the context of a motion for summary judgment is not simply a "metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp.,475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Rather, a genuine issue of material fact exists 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 (1986); Insolia v. Philip Morris, Inc.,216 F.3d 596, 599 (7th Cir. 2000). In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the court must consider the record as a whole, in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255; Bay v. Cassens Transport Co.,212 F.3d 969, 972 (7th Cir. 2000). When there are cross motions for summary judgment, the court should "construe all inferences in favor of the party against whom the motion under consideration is made." Mote v. Aetna Life Ins. Co., 502 F.3d 601, 606 (7th Cir. 2007)(internal quotations omitted); see also Krieg v. Seybold, 481 F.3d 512, 516 (7th Cir. 2007).

DISCUSSION

Plaintiffs contend that, as a matter of law, they are entitled to recover the $50,724.96 that they have requested from Defendant. Defendant contends that, as a matter of law, the amount requested by Plaintiffs should be reduced by $18,257.00, which represents $17,944.00 in attorneys' fees and $313.00 in copying fees incurred by Plaintiffs from May 1, 2011 through June 7, 2011 in connection with the Hearing. Pursuant to 20 U.S.C. § 1415(i)(3) (Section 1415(i)(3)), "[i]n any action or proceeding brought under this section, the [district] court, in its discretion, may award reasonable attorneys' fees as part of the costs . . . to a prevailing party who is the parent of a child with a disability." 20 U.S.C. § 1415(i)(3)(B)(i)(I). Under Section 1415(i)(3), "[f]ees awarded . . . shall be based on rates prevailing in the community in which the action or proceeding arose for the kind and quality of services furnished." 20 U.S.C. § 1415(i)(3)(C). The amount of attorneys' fees and costs that is recoverable under Section 1415(i)(3) is limited, since Section 1415(i)(3) also provides, in relevant part, that

[a]ttorneys' fees may not be awarded and related costs may not be reimbursed in any action or proceeding under this section for services performed subsequent to the time of a written offer of settlement to a parent if--(I) the offer is made within the time prescribed by Rule 68 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure or, in the case of an administrative proceeding, at any time more than 10 days before the proceeding begins;

(II) the offer is not accepted within 10 days; and

(III) the court or administrative hearing officer finds that the relief finally obtained by the parents is not more favorable to the parents than the offer of settlement.

20 U.S.C. ยง1415(i)(3)(D)(i). As an exception to this rule, Section 1415(i)(3) further provides that "[n]otwithstanding [the limitation on attorneys' fees found in] subparagraph (D), an award of attorneys' fees and related costs may be made to a parent who is the prevailing party and who was substantially justified in rejecting the settlement offer." 20 U.S.C. ...


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