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The Supreme Court ruled against three death row inmates who had sought to bar the use of an execution drug they said risked causing excruciating pain.

Decision: June 29, 2015VIEW FULL DOCUMENT »



The Bottom Line

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., joined by four other justices, concludes that a disputed drug used to render condemned prisoners unconscious as the first stage in the lethal injection process works sufficiently well that it does not violate the Eighth Amendment prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. The executions in Oklahoma may go forward.
“Based on the evidence that the parties presented to the District Court, we must affirm. Testimony from both sides supports the District Court’s conclusion that midazolam can render a person insensate to pain.”

No Better, Available Alternative

Justice Alito argues that rejecting every available means of carrying out the death penalty would amount to striking it down even though it is constitutional. Because the plaintiffs have not identified an alternative, better means of being executed, their challenge fails.
“Our first ground for affirmance is based on petitioners’ failure to satisfy their burden of establishing that any risk of harm was substantial when compared to a known and available alternative method of execution. … [T]he record shows that Oklahoma has been unable to procure [alternative] drugs despite a good-faith effort to do so. Petitioners do not seriously contest this factual finding,and they have not identified any available drug or drugs that could be used in place of those that Oklahoma is now unable to obtain. … If States cannot return to any of the “more primitive” methods used in the past [like the gas chamber or the electric chair] and if no drug that meets with the principal dissent’s approval is available for use in carrying out a death sentence, the logical conclusion is clear. But we have time and again reaffirmed that capital punishment is not per se unconstitutional. … We decline to effectively overrule these decisions.”


Sotomayor Argues That Drug Is Ineffective

Justice Sonia Sotomayor, joined by three other justices, argues that the Eighth Amendment should have barred Oklahoma from using the disputed drug as part of a lethal injection protocol because it cannot be trusted to render and keep a condemned inmate unconscious, leaving him open to pain at the later stages.
“By protecting even those convicted of heinous crimes, the Eighth Amendment reaffirms the duty of the government to respect the dignity of all persons.” Roper v. Simmons, 543 U. S. 551, 560 (2005). Today, however, the Court absolves the State of Oklahoma of this duty. It does so by misconstruing and ignoring the record evidence regarding the constitutional insufficiency of midazolam as a sedative in a three-drug lethal injection cocktail, and by imposing a wholly unprecedented obligation on the condemned inmate to identify an available means for his or her own execution. The contortions necessary to save this particular lethal injection protocol are not worth the price. I dissent.”

Sotomayor Questions Alito’s ‘Available Alternative’ Argument

Justice Sotomayor takes on Justice Alito’s argument that petitioners have to point to a better and available alternative means of execution to prevail. (Justice Alito responded that her argument was “simply not true” and “outlandish.”)
“The Court appears to rely on a flawed syllogism. If the death penalty is constitutional, the Court reasons, then there must be a means of accomplishing it, and thus some available method of execution must be constitutional. … If a State wishes to carry out an execution, it must do so subject to the constraints that our Constitution imposes on it, including the obligation to ensure that its chosen method is not cruel and unusual. Certainly the condemned has no duty to devise or pick a constitutional instrument of his or her own death. For these reasons, the Court’s available-alternative requirement leads to patently absurd consequences. Petitioners contend that Oklahoma’s current protocol is a barbarous method of punishment — the chemical equivalent of being burned alive. But under the Court’s new rule, it would not matter whether the State intended to use midazolam, or instead to have petitioners drawn and quartered, slowly tortured to death, or actually burned at the stake: because petitioners failed to prove the availability of sodium thiopental or pentobarbital, the State could execute them using whatever means it designated. …The Eighth Amendment cannot possibly countenance such a result.”

Breyer Suggests Death Penalty May Be Unconstitutional

Justice Stephen G. Breyer, joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writes a lengthy concurrence to the dissent arguing that the death penalty in general — and not just executions involving this particular drug — may violate the Eighth Amendment.
“The answer is that the matters I have discussed, such as lack of reliability, the arbitrary application of a serious and irreversible punishment, individual suffering caused by long delays, and lack of penological purpose are quintessentially judicial matters. They concern the infliction — indeed the unfair, cruel, and unusual infliction — of a serious punishment upon an individual. I recognize that in 1972 this Court, in a sense, turned to Congress and the state legislatures in its search for standards that would increase the fairness and reliability of imposing a death penalty. The legislatures responded. But, in the last four decades, considerable evidence has accumulated that those responses have not worked. Thus we are left with a judicial responsibility. The Eighth Amendment sets forth the relevant law, and we must interpret that law. … For the reasons I have set forth in this opinion, I believe it highly likely that the death penalty violates the Eighth Amendment. At the very least, the Court should call for full briefing on the basic question.


Scalia Invokes Founding Fathers on the Death Penalty

Justice Antonin Scalia, joined by Justice Clarence Thomas, takes Justice Breyer to task for suggesting that the death penalty is unconstitutional.
“Time and again, the People have voted to exact the death penalty as punishment for the most serious of crimes. Time and again, this Court has upheld that decision. And time and again, a vocal minority of this Court has insisted that things have “changed radically,” post, at 2, and has sought to replace the judgments of the People with their own standards of decency. Capital punishment presents moral questions that philosophers, theologians, and statesmen have grappled with for millennia. The Framers of our Constitution disagreed bitterly on the matter. For that reason, they handled it the same way they handled many other controversial issues: they left it to the People to decide. By arrogating to himself the power to overturn that decision, Justice Breyer does not just reject the death penalty, he rejects the Enlightenment.”

Supreme Court Ruling, Rising Police Presence in Schools Spur Miranda QuestionsA few weeks before summer break, an eighth-grader in Fairfax County was pulled from his civics class and led into an office. An assistant principal told him that classmates had reported hearing him say he’d smoked marijuana with five other boys — days earlier, after school hours, off campus. A uniformed police officer joined the interview.


Court Grants Cert in Private Placement Case – The Supreme Court has granted certiorari in a private placement case from Oregon, giving it a new opportunity to decide under what circumstances families of students with disabilities can be reimbursed for the cost of private tuition. Forest Grove Sch. Dist. v. T.A., 50 IDELR 1 (9th Cir. 2008), petition for cert. filed (U.S. 09/03/08) (No. 08-305). The court announced its decision Jan. 16, after first discussing it Jan. 9. Briefs by the district are due Feb. 25, and briefs by the family of T.A. are due March 25. The Oregon case is important because it gives the Court another chance to decide what Congress meant in 1997 when it amended the IDEA and described at least one scenario under which parents could be reimbursed for the private education of a student with disabilities. Under that scenario, a court or hearing officer may award tuition reimbursement to the parents of a child who has previously received special education services under public auspices if the district failed to offer FAPE.(From Special Ed News, Jan 22, 2009)


FL Disabled Palm Beach County Students Unfairly Punished for Behavior, Group ClaimsPalm Beach county students with documented behavioral or emotional disabilities are not getting the academic or emotional services they need and are instead being unfairly punished for behaviors that are due to their disabilities, according to a complaint submitted today to the State Department of Education. The complaint was filed on behalf of four county students and the Florida State Conference of the NAACP by the Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County, the Southern Legal Counsel and the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights advocacy group.

Do Parents Really Have a Right to Participate in IEP Decision-Making? Seventh Circuit Says No. Parents Take Case To U.S. Supreme Court. J. H. – a child with behavioral and social challenges – was removed from the public schools by his parents, placed at a private school and later diagnosed with autism. The public school district vowed to “start from scratch” in crafting a new Individualized Educational Program (IEP) that would meet his needs. Despite that stated intention, the district had already decided to place J.H. in a district school. District personnel then wrote an IEP for J.H. with goals and objectives that fit that placement determination. Placement at the private school was not considered. As an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) later noted, under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) “placement” must be determined based upon the IEP, which takes into account a child’s needs and includes parental input. The ALJ held that deciding placement before the IEP was written was premature, denied the parents meaningful participation in the IEP process, and ultimately constituted a denial of a free and appropriate education as required by IDEA. A lower court disagreed saying that the school district had no obligation to consider placing J.H. in the private setting until it had concluded he could not receive an appropriate education in a public district school. The parents appealed. A split panel of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court saying that “IDEA actually required that the school district assume public placement” for J.H.. The parents now seek leave to appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court. Read theparents’ brief to the U.S. Supreme Court as well as supporting briefs from Autism Speaks and the Tourette Syndrome Association.

AZ Arizona School Voucher Programs Ruled UnconstitutionalIt is unconstitutional for the state to give parents money to help pay private-school tuition for their disabled or foster children, the Arizona Court of Appeals decided Thursday. The 2006 law violates the state Constitution’s ban on using public money to aid private schools, the panel said.


FL Low Graduation Rate Draws Florida LawsuitAmid mounting national frustration over high school graduation rates, the School District of Palm Beach County in Florida has been thrust onto center stage. In a class-action lawsuit, the American Civil Liberties Union is demanding that the district boost its graduation rates and reduce the gaps in those rates between racial and socioeconomic groups. “If the ACLU is successful, this is going to shake everything up, because it will be a whole different set of expectations about who is supposed to solve the problems,” says Paul Houston, executive director of the American Association of School Administrators in Arlington, Va.


Appeals Court Upholds Award of Four Years of Compensatory EdOn March 20, 2007, the District Court of Georgia ordered the Atlanta Independent School System to pay Jarron Draper’s tuition at a private special education school for four years, or until he graduated from high school, as prospective compensatory education for their persistent failure to educate him.

CA Home Schooling Case: Rachel L v LA County Department of Children and Family Services – In the context of a child under California protective services jurisdiction, In re Rachel L holds it is not unconstitutional to require home schoolers to obtain teaching certification (“credentials”), just as any other teacher would be statutorily required to do. The 2/28/08 decision and the 3/07/08 amendment to that decision are available for download.

Government Concedes Vaccine-Autism Case in Federal Court – Now What?After years of insisting there is no evidence to link vaccines with the onset of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), the US government has quietly conceded a vaccine-autism case in the Court of Federal Claims.

A Big Win For Parents!Today the United States Supreme Court struck a blow for parent rights under IDEA by holding that Jeff and Sandee Winkleman have the right as parents to use the federal courts to enforce special education rights without having to hire a lawyer.


Parents Don’t Need Lawyer in Ed CasesParents need not hire a lawyer to sue public school districts over their children’s special education needs, the Supreme Court ruled Monday. The decision came in the case of an autistic boy from Ohio, whose parents argued they were effectively denied access to the courts because they could not afford a lawyer. Federal law gives every child the right to a free appropriate public education, which in the case of special needs children sometimes means enrollment in a private facility.


Lawyer Argues for Parents’ Right to SueParents should not be forced to hire a lawyer to sue public school districts over their children’s special education needs, the lawyer for parents of an autistic child told the Supreme Court Tuesday.

<color=”#ff0000″>MI Children’s Rights Files Lawsuit On Behalf Of Kids Abused And Neglected In Michigan CustodyRecently in Detroit Federal Court, the advocacy group Children’s Rights filed suit against Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm and Marianne Udow, Director of the Department of Human Services (DHS), for failing to take the necessary steps to protect the nearly 19,000 foster care children in the custody of the state. The state immediately agreed to enter into settlement negotiations with plaintiffs to resolve the lawsuit.

MI Michigan Appeals Court Finds Lawyer is Owed Open Meetings FeesAttorneys who represent themselves in successful Open Meetings Act cases are entitled to an award of attorney fees from public bodies, a divided Court of Appeals has ruled.

Province Wins Autism RulingFamily worries what will happen now to 9-year-old son. Natoma Houston sat at her computer frozen in disbelief yesterday morning as she read the bottom line of the Ontario Court of Appeal’s decision on funding for intensive therapy for autistic children over age 5.

Parents Prevail in ABA Case, Costs Could Exceed Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars On May 26, 2006, U. S. District Court Judge Robert Payne issued an extensive pro-child decision in Henrico County School Board v. R. T., a tuition reimbursement case on behalf of a child with autism. The judge found that the school system knowingly and repeatedly failed to provide an appropriate educational program for a young child with autism. In awarding reimbursement for a private school that employs intensive one-on-one ABA therapy to educate children with autism, the judge slammed the School Board for inertia: “The Court finds that the School Board’s conduct in this matter reflects the inertia to which Congress was referring when it wrote in the IDEA that ‘the implementation of this chapter has been impeded by low expectations, and an insufficient focus on applying replicable research on proven methods of teaching and learning for children with disabilities.'” 20 U. S. C. § 1400(c)(4). Henrico County School Board v. R. T. Download the decision in Henrico County School Board v. R. T. (from Wrightslaw)

VA School System Loses Autism CaseA federal judge yesterday found the Henrico County school system knowingly and repeatedly failed to provide a system of instruction suitable to a severely autistic child. In a79-page opinion laced with criticism of the school system’s compliance with education disabilities law, U.S. District Judge Robert E. Payne sets hearings to determine what Henrico schools should pay for failing to meet federal standards of care regarding this child.


OH Bar Association Battles ParentsThe Cleveland Bar Association is threatening to fine the parents of an autistic boy $10,000 for not hiring a lawyer when they brought, and largely won, a court case on their son’s behalf four years ago. After a long court battle, Brian and Susan Woods settled their case with the Akron school district in 2002 when the district agreed to send Daniel, now 11, to a private school.

ME Federal Judge Rules That Asperger’s Syndrome is a DisabilityA York County girl who suffers from Asperger’s syndrome is entitled to special education services even though she completes her homework, behaves well in class and scores well on tests, a federal judge ruled.


GA Family Sues School System RE: Closet as “Time out Room”In February, we introduced you to Boone Garvey, an autistic child who attended Lee County Primary School. His mother said Boone had been locked in a closet at school as a punishment for misbehaving. The school system defended the action, saying the closet was, in fact, a “time out room.”


<color=”#ff0000″>FL State v Christie Supports the Filing of Charges if Teachers See and Fail to Report Abuse Taking Place In Their Midst at School (PDF) – In State v Christie the Florida Court of Appeals (3rd District, Nov. 2, 2005), held that a teacher may be charged with caregiver neglect under the Florida child abuse and neglect statute (excerpt): “The charges in this case stemmed from incidents where Christie, a public school teacher, stood by and did nothing while her teacher’s aide bound certain students to their desks and/or to the blackboard with adhesive tape, in the classroom. The State charged Christie with five counts of child neglect with no bodily harm under sections 827.03 (3)(a) and (c). That statute defines “neglect of a child” as a caregiver’s failure or omission to provide a child with care or supervision. Section 827.01(1), in turn, defines “caregiver” as “a parent, adult household member, or other person responsible for a child’s welfare.”” The holding stands for the proposition that the traditional status of teachers as “in loco parentis” supports the notion that actionable abuse/neglect charges may be filed (and proven) by a prosecutor when the teacher ignores abusive/neglectful actions of others in his or her midst.

Schaffer v. Weast: How Will the Decision Affect YOU?

Special-education Failures Run DeepIn an opinion piece, Attorney Kalman R. Hettleman, who’s also a member of the Baltimore City school board, notes that the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision that ruled parents must bear the burden of proving the inadequacy of their child’s special-education plan, did not overrule states that have put that burden on school districts. Hettleman urges Maryland to pass such a law.


High Court Rules Against Parents in Special Education CaseDownload and read the decision (PDF) here. The Supreme Court ruled today that parents who demand better special education programs for their children have the burden of proof in the challenges. The 6-2 decision, written by retiring Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, said that if parents challenge a program, they have the burden in an administrative hearing of showing that the program is insufficient. If schools bring a complaint, the burden rests with them, O’Connor wrote.


<color=”#ff0000″>CA Parents Sue Schools, Seek Help For Diabetic StudentsThree Danville parents, another from Fremont and the American Diabetes Association filed a lawsuit Tuesday to require California public schools to assist in insulin injections and provide other help for diabetic students.


U. S. Supreme Court Hears Oral Argument in Schaffer v. WeastSchaffer v. Weast, the Court heard oral arguments on the burden of proof in special education cases. In a dispute between parents and school officials, should schools be required to prove that the plans they propose are adequate and appropriate?


<color=”#ff0000″>CA Federal Judge Approves Record $6.7 Million Settlement in Special Ed Case – The Manhattan Beach Unified School District and the California Department of Education have agreed to pay more than $6.7 million to a child with a disability and his parents for their failure to appropriately educate the child for more than five years.


<color=”#ff0000″>CA District Settles With Family For $6.7 MillionThe Manhattan Beach school district and the state education department have agreed to pay more than $6.7 million to settle a long-running legal battle with the family of an autistic special education student.


Appeals Court Shoots Down ‘Durant IV’The Court of Appeals ruled today that school districts failed to prove that the state pushed an unfunded mandate on them in 2000 when former Gov. John Engler created the Center for Education Performance and Information (CEPI), but didn’t give school districts the money to run the program.

Court Rejects Suit on School Board ReportsNot every change in required school activities invokes Headlee Amendment provisions for state reimbursement of costs, a unanimous panel of the Court of Appeals has ruled in turning aside claims by several hundred districts for costs of maintaining records in an information database created in 2000.


HI Special Needs at Stake in CourtIt was disappointing to find Hawai’i back at the Supreme Court, this time with an amicus brief opposing the interests of parents of special-needs children. The attorney general’s brief argues that schools have greater expertise and access to information, so their judgment as to a child’s educational program should be entitled to more deference, and the burden of proof to show otherwise should rest with the parents.

Bush Administration Supports Montgomery Schools in LawsuitThe Bush administration has sided with school systems in a special education dispute between a disabled student’s parents and the Montgomery County public schools that is before the U.S. Supreme Court.


Taking Adequacy to the Courts: Examining School Finance Litigation (PDF) – The issue of whether students are receiving funding for an adequate education is being driven to the forefront of court dockets, with 25 states currently facing school finance lawsuits. Recently, education advocates have shifted focus from equal education to adequate education. They have come to realize that allocating the same amount of resources for every district doesn’t work. Some students have educational needs that simply require more money — and this applies not only to students with disabilities, but also to poor students. The current issue of “NSBA Leadership Insider” outlines current school finance adequacy court cases and legislation pending at both state and federal levels.


Special Education: Unbelievable Cases ContinueTwo Articles from WrightsLaw: Amid Affluence, a Struggle Over Special Education and School Board Plans to Appeal Case to Supreme Court – And Work Toward Settlement


MI Disabled Woman’s Dog Has Its DayJoyce Grad, 55, of Birmingham sits with Lady in her apartment on Tuesday. A federal jury in Detroit sided with Grad in a lawsuit that may have a big impact on mentally ill people who request no-pet waivers from condos and co-op boards.


High Court to Hear Maryland Special Ed CaseMontgomery County couple’s suit contends that school officials, if challenged, must prove they are meeting their legal obligations to special education students. [Free login/registration required.]

U.S. District Court Finds Children Have a Right to Counsel in Dependency Cases (PDF) – The U.S. District Court, Northern District of Georgia Atlanta Division issued an order on February 8, 2005 in a class action lawsuit brought by Children’s Rights, Inc. against the Georgia state child welfare agencies and officials regarding children in Georgia’s foster care system. Among other things, plaintiffs allege the defendants have failed to provide adequate and effective legal representation for children in dependency proceedings. In its order the court stated that children in dependency cases have a constitutional right to counsel that may be violated by excessive caseloads. The question of the excessive nature of the caseloads will now go to trial. Thanks to the National Association of Counsel for Children for sharing this news.


Alternative Schooling Not Required, U.S. Court RulesAlthough Michigan’s constitution guarantees the right to a free public elementary and secondary education, neither it nor state law provides a right to alternative education for those older than the drop-out age of 16, a panel of the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday in a case arising from the notorious 2000 murder of a New Baltimore teen pizza worker.


PA Pennsylvania Agrees to Changes in Special Ed to Increase Inclusion of Students with Disabilities in Regular Ed ClassesThe state of Pennsylvania and the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia have concluded an historic settlement of litigation designed to change the quality of special education services throughout the state. Pursuant to the agreement, the state will change how it helps its 501 school districts comply with the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and how it monitors that compliance. The settlement is designed to increase the inclusion of students with disabilities in regular education classes with non-disabled students.


<color=”#ff0000″>FL Another Ruling Calls School Vouchers UnconstitutionalA disappointed Gov. Bush still believes a 1999 law doesn’t violate the church-state barrier. The Florida Supreme Court may weigh in next.


MI Michigan Court Orders Worker’s Compensation to ChildA company must pay worker’s compensation benefits for the daughter of an employee killed on the job even though the unmarried worker had not provided support for the girl while he was alive, a unanimous panel of the Court of Appeals has ruled. The court, in a per curiam ruling released Wednesday, said Prestige Painting must provide 500 weeks in benefits to the girl because the law requires payments to the dependent children of workers.


<color=”#ff0000″>MI Federal District Court Holds Removal of Children UnlawfulIn an opinion issued July 30, 2004, the federal court for the Western District of Michigan refused to dismiss a Section 1983 action against state agency (FIA) workers who entered a home and removed children without a written order. The opinion contains an interesting discussion of case law regarding immunity of public officials and of the legal requirements to remove children.<color=”#ff0000″>


U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals Finds Housing Law Requires Accessible Front DoorFederal housing discrimination laws require the front door of a new multi-unit apartment must be made handicapped accessible even if the design allows access through another means, a unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday. The circuit was the first in the nation to rule on the issue as it blocked further construction on 19 apartment buildings in Michigan and Ohio that provided handicapped access only through a patio door.


<color=”#ff0000″>IL State Violating Medicaid LawsIllinois’ health-care program for poor children violates federal law because it fails to ensure that youngsters receive appropriate preventative medicine, from immunizations to tests for lead in their blood, a federal judge has ruled.


MI Wheelchair Users Sue Detroit Over Buses With Broken LiftsA group of wheelchair users sued the City of Detroit on Tuesday, claiming half of the city’s buses lack working wheelchair lifts as required by federal law.


New Michigan Court Decision: Physical Safety (PDF) – On July 1, 2004, the Michigan Court of Appeals decided the case of Miller v Lord. Among the Court’s conclusions is a finding that the Michigan Persons with Disabilities Civil Rights Act does not apply to children at school who have IEPs, even if the civil rights violation alleged has to do with physical safety rather than educational issues. The opinion also contains a fairly clear explanation of the governmental immunity issues involved in these kinds of situations, and why it is so difficult to hold schools or teachers liable when a child is physically harmed at school. [Source: J. Lester]


<color=”#ff0000″>FL <color=”#ff0000″>Education Ruling to be AppealedThe School Board is appealing an order to provide special education to a student with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, arguing that it could open such services to thousands of other students with ADHD.


PA Testing Standards Spawn Court FightThe state is failing the children in its fifth-largest school district, which has a large number of children who live in poverty and understand little English, by holding them to the same academic standards as their counterparts in wealthier districts, an attorney for the Reading School District argued yesterday.


<color=”#ff0000″>CANADA Parents Await Autism Court Decision – <color=”#ff0000″>Parents of children with autism had their day in the Supreme Court of Canada last week. And the outcome could mean more help for autistic children in P.E.I. Four B.C. parents want Canada’s highest court to force the provincial government there to pay for a very intense and very expensive treatment for young children with autism. In P.E.I. some of the Applied Behavior Analysis, or ABA, treatment is covered. The treatment is intense and administered one-to-one. That makes it expensive.


Disabled Win Right to Sue States Over Court AccessThe Supreme Court upheld the rights of disabled people under a national law meant to protect them, ruling Monday that a paraplegic who crawled up the steps of a small-town courthouse can sue over the lack of an elevator.


<color=”#ff0000″><color=”#ff0000″><color=”#ff0000″><color=”#ff0000″><color=”#ff0000″>TN Help Backlog for Mentally Retarded in State May EaseJudge indicates he’ll OK consent decree settling federal suit brought by activists. After four years of federal litigation, the state of Tennessee and a group of advocacy attorneys are on the verge of a breakthrough that promises to shore up the state’s struggling support network for the mentally retarded.


U.S. Lawsuit Charges EPA Ignoring “Lost” MercuryA lawsuit filed in February against the Bush Administration asserts that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is failing to protect the public health, and violating the Clean Air Act, by ignoring tons of unaccounted for mercury emissions each year. The suit, filed by Earthjustice on behalf of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Sierra Club, asks the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to review a recently published EPA rule on mercury because it fails to address “lost” mercury disappearing from a handful of chlorine plants around the country.


<color=”#ff0000″>U.S. Retaliation! One Million Dollar Verdict for Special Ed Teacher Upheld!On Monday, April 5, 2004, the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld the jury verdict and reinstated the 1 million dollar award to Pamella Settlegoode. The decision clarifies the importance of freedom of speech for teachers.


<color=”#ff0000″>MI Federal Court Upholds State Medicaid FormularyMichigan’s Medicaid drug formulary – a program to save the state money by requiring drug companies to agree to discount the cost of their drugs to be included on an approved drug list – has been upheld as lawful by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.


U.S. Denial of Mainstreaming RejectedIn a ruling hailed as a victory for disabled children, a federal judge has ruled that a 4-year-old child with Down syndrome must be “mainstreamed” at the preschool level at least temporarily and that, after an initial trial period, Pennsylvania education officials must put the burden on the school district to prove that a non-mainstream placement is more appropriate.


<color=”#ff0000″><color=”#ff0000″>MI Home Schoolers Do Not Have Right to Play on HS Teams: MI Court of AppealsHome schooled students do not have a right to play for sports teams of schools in the districts in which they live, a unanimous panel of the Court of Appeals has ruled, rejecting arguments that the policies by schools and a state athletic association violate equal protection and religious freedom rights of the students. (3-04)<color=”#ff0000″><color=”#ff0000″>


<color=”#ff0000″>U.S. New York Times Editorial: Lane v. TennesseeCan disabled people be forced to crawl up the courthouse steps? (1/04)


VA R. v FAIRFAX COUNTY BOARD [4th Circuit Court – 07/29/03] – The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) does not require an educational agency to include in its procedural safeguards notice, mandated by 20 U.S.C.A. section 1415 (West 2000), an explicit statement that parents in Virginia have a two-year period in which to request a due process hearing and to indicate when that period begins to run.

NH <color=”#ff0000″>An Adequate Education DefinedClaremont II and the other New Hampshire Supreme CourtClaremont Decisions require that the State of New Hampshire ensure that all students be afforded an “adequate education” which is  more than just providing the basics. As described in Claremont II the Court “look[ed] to the following seven criteria articulated by the Supreme Court of Kentucky” “as benchmarks of a constitutionally adequate public education.

MA Appeals Court: Parents Can Represent Their Children in Disability DisputesParents can sue on behalf of their disabled children — without hiring a lawyer — to make sure their child gets an appropriate public education, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday.

<color=”#ff0000″>MI Oakland Schools: Learning-disabled Boy Turned AwayFamily in court to force Oakland Schools to provide specialized programming for their son.


Disabilities Act faces Supreme Court testThe decision on whether the law requires buildings to be handicap-accessible will affect Iowa’s older buildings.

IL Employee Benefits Plan Administrator Acted Irrationally in not Covering Autism-Related TherapiesA health insurance plan administrator acted arbitrarily and capriciously in denying coverage of autism- related speech, integrated sensory, and occupational therapies for a plan participant’s son , the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois ruled July 21, 2003 (Wheeler v. Aetna Life Insurance Co., N.D. Ill., No. 01 C 6064, 7/21/03).

<color=”#ff0000″><color=”#ff0000″>WA Teasing Suit Moves to Appeals CourtThe mother of an autistic boy says hearing him called “stupid” and “crazy” by his kindergarten classmates was only part of the problem, according to court records.

<color=”#ff0000″><color=”#ff0000″><color=”#ff0000″><color=”#ff0000″><color=”#ff0000″><color=”#ff0000″><color=”#ff0000″><color=”#ff0000″><color=”#ff0000″><color=”#ff0000″><color=”#ff0000″><color=”#ff0000″><color=”#ff0000″><color=”#ff0000″><color=”#ff0000″><color=”#ff0000″><color=”#ff0000″><color=”#ff0000″><color=”#ff0000″><color=”#ff0000″>U.S. Full Text of U.S. Supreme Court Rulings: U of M Cases<color=”#ff0000″><color=”#ff0000″><color=”#ff0000″><color=”#ff0000″><color=”#ff0000″><color=”#ff0000″><color=”#ff0000″><color=”#ff0000″><color=”#ff0000″><color=”#ff0000″><color=”#ff0000″><color=”#ff0000″><color=”#ff0000″><color=”#ff0000″><color=”#ff0000″><color=”#ff0000″><color=”#ff0000″><color=”#ff0000″><color=”#ff0000″><color=”#ff0000″><color=”#ff0000″>(PDF documents) Links to the full text of the U.S. Supreme Court rulings in the two University of Michigan affirmative action cases: Grutter v. Bollinger: Law School policy upheld, 5-4; Gratz v. Bollinger: Literature, Science and the Arts policy overturned, 6-3

MI Becker-Witt v Board of Examiners (pdf) – The Michigan Court of Appeals issued this published decision upholding the revocation of a social worker’s license for failure to report suspected child abuse by a client. The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) had revoked the license and also declared the failure to report the abuse constituted gross negligence and incompetence. The trial court reversed holding that the worker lacked a duty of care to the client’s child. The Court of Appeals reinstated the ALJ’s findings and reversed the trial court’s legal ruling on the duty owed by the social worker to the child.


U.S. Court of Appeals 6th Circuit: Kings Local Sch. Dist., Bd. of Educ. v. ZelaznySixth Circuit Court of Appeals holds that failure to include parents in meeting does not violate IDEA where that failure did not “seriously infringe” on the parent’s right to participate. Also, full time residential placement is “at no cost to the parents of the child” only if it is necessary for educational purposes as opposed to medical, social, or emotional problems that are separable from the learning process.  Click here for the full-text document(pdf size=109kb).

MI Michigan Court Clarifies Principal’s True EmployerA private educational services company is not a “reporting unit” of the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System (MPSERS), the Court of Appeals ruled this week.

MI State Pharmaceutical Plan Wins in Federal CourtMichigan’s controversial pharmaceutical plan requiring physicians to use a state approved list of drugs won a critically important ruling in federal court in Washington, D.C.

MI Michigan Court of Appeals Rules that Reasonable or Negligent Use of Force on Students Is Protected By Governmental Immunity. Read the full text of Phillips v. Schooley (pdf size=18kb), Mar. 18, 2002.

MI Michigan Appeals Court OKs Electric Cycle Use For Disabled Summer Resident on ‘Motorless’ Mackinac Island

MI Diet Drug Makers Can’t be Sued, Michigan Supreme Court Rules

MI Court: High School Athletic Group Not a Public BodyThe Michigan High School Athletic Association is not a public body and therefore not subject to the Freedom of Information Act, a divided Court of Appeals panel ruled Friday.


PA Judge Gives Green Light to LawsuitA U.S. Middle District Court judge has ruled that a section of the Americans with Disabilities Act covers police practices and that a police department can be sued for failing to train its officers to handle mentally ill and disabled suspects.


CA Disabled students call test unfair: State high school exit exam forcing them out of classroom, some say.  After Justin Pierce, an 11th-grader with dyslexia, failed the math portion of California’s new graduation exam for the second time, he left his family in Napa.


MI Schools File Adair BriefMichigan’s 464 plaintiff school districts in the Adair v. Michigan case filed their brief in the Supreme Court this month in their effort to receive full-funding for mandated state programs and services as required by the Headlee Amendment.


MI Sixth Circuit Court Holds That “The Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)” Does Not Mean a Neighborhood School – click here to read more.

MI U.S. Supreme Court Shuns Detroit School Takeover Case

A Court Victory!The Supreme Court won’t hear challenge to Medicaid beneficiaries’ victory.

NC Court to Mull Right to a Lawyer In Discipline CasesThe allegation against the 15-year-old boy was sexual harassment, the proposed punishment a suspension that would consume more than half a school semester.

COURT: Medicaid Rules Wrong on parent/Non-Parent Benefits

Court Case Involving Unilateral Placement: Florence County Sch. Dist. IV v. Shannon Carter(510 U. S. 7) Shannon’s parents filed this suit in July 1986, claiming that the school district had breached its duty under IDEA to provide Shannon with a “free appropriate public education,” § 1401(a)(18), and seeking reimbursement for tuition and other costs incurred at Trident. After a bench trial, the District Court ruled in the parents’ favor. The court held that the school district’s proposed educational program and the achievement goals of the IEP “were wholly inadequate” and failed to satisfy the requirements of the Act. App. to Pet. for Cert 27a. The court further held that “[a]lthough [Trident Academy] did not comply with all the procedures outlined in [IDEA],” the school “provided Shannon an excellent education in substantial compliance with all the substantive requirements” of the statute. Id. at 37a.


Judge Finds Official Liable for Denial of Special EdParents Gain Tool in Fight to Make Schools Meet Kids’ Educational Needs.


Gongwer 12-18-02 Supreme Court to Hear Durant IV Case


MI Gongwer 12-14-02 Court Upholds Michigan’s Medicaid Prescription Drug Program


Gongwer 12-3-02 U.S. Supreme Court Allows Medicaid Suit


Disability insurer hit with class action lawsuit

Pediatric Drug Testing Struck Down by Court


Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Rules that Parents do Not Have to Exhaust a State’s Complaint Procedure Before Appealing to Federal CourtRead the full text (pdf)


U.S. Justices to consider state agencies’ immunity from ADA lawsuits


Parent May Be Reimbursed for Services Performed for Own Disabled Child

CA L.A. Unified to Keep 16 Schools Segregated for Special EducationRuling: The decision by a federal judge was prompted by parents’ opposition to integration.

High-Stakes Lawsuit in Massachusetts: How High Are the Stakes? Learn about the new high-stakes lawsuit in Massachusetts – and how high the stakes are.

MI Deaf mom fights to keep kids from ear implants

MD Baltimore County schools named in complaintSystem failed to provide enough special education teachers, parents say.

ALERT: New Decision in Witte v. Clark County School Brutality Case


Lead Paint Suits Echo Approach to Tobacco


CA Three Districts Pay Damages In Gay-Rights Lawsuits


Class action demands services for disabledGroups sue state, alleging people with disabilities must wait too long for aid.


The Education Law Center www.michedlawcenter.com

Child sues private school in Baton Rouge under disabilities act

Special-Ed Law Violated, Judge RulesThe Calvert County school system violated federal law when it failed to provide a blind student with a certified vision teacher last year, a state administrative law judge has ruled.

FL Court Bars Use of VouchersA judge in Tallahassee ruled on Monday that Florida’s school voucher program is unconstitutional and barred students from using vouchers to attend private schools.


Read the article from the Boston Globe: Deaf mechanic wins employment suit against United Airlines


Drawing BoundariesThe Supreme Court Is Siding With Employers and Narrowing the Reach of theAmericans With Disabilities Act. Is That What its Drafters Had in Mind?


Gongwer 7/25/02 – Top Court: Governments Must Prove FOI Materials Exempt

Vouchers: Proceed with CautionThe Supreme Court’s Cleveland ruling, a stunning victory for public education reform, could loose a boa constrictor on private schools.

Court opinion: Zobrest v. Catalina Foothills School District, 509 U.S. 1 (1993).  Petitioners, a deaf child and his parents, filed this suit after respondent school district refused to provide a sign-language interpreter to accompany the child to classes at a Roman Catholic high school. They alleged that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment required respondent to provide the interpreter, and that the Establishment Clause did not bar such relief. The District Court granted respondent summary judgment on the ground that the interpreter would act as a conduit for the child’s religious inculcation, thereby promoting his religious development at government expense in violation of the Establishment Clause.     

FERPA Ruling – University disciplinary records are “educational records” under the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), and an injunction against the release of such records and personally identifiable information therein, in violation of the FERPA, was proper; a newspaper has no qualified First Amendment right of access to traditionally closed student disciplinary proceedings.

University of Michigan Editorial: Whites Swim in Racial PreferenceAsk a fish what water is and you’ll get no answer. Even if fish were capable of speech, they would likely have no explanation for the element they swim in every minute of every day of their lives. Water simply is. Fish take it for granted.

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