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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Court of Appeals Issues Decision in the Child Find Class Action

D.L. v. District of Columbia, D.D.C., Civ. No. 05-1437

In 2005, the firm brought D.L. v. District of Columbia in the District Court for the District of Columbia.  The case is a class action challenging the District of Columbia’s systemic failure to identify, locate, and evaluate three to five year old children with disabilities, and offer them a free appropriate public education, in violation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and other law.

On August 10, 2010, the district court granted plaintiffs’ motion for partial summary judgment, finding the defendants liable through 2007 for violating plaintiffs’ rights under the IDEA, the Rehabilitation Act, and District of Columbia law.  The court subsequently held a trial on liability related to subsequent years.

On November 16, 2011, after trial, the district court ruled for the plaintiff class, finding that defendants had violated the IDEA, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and District of Columbia law through the date of the trial.  The district court ordered the District of Columbia to cease these violations and required the District of Columbia to take significant steps to ensure that it complies with its obligations to provide special education and related services.  The district court did not address the process for awarding compensatory education or reimbursement relief to individual members of the class.

Before the district court issued its decision after the trial, the Supreme Court issued its decision inWal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, which related to class certification.  Before trial, defendants had moved to decertify the class and that motion was still pending when Wal-Mart was decided.  Plaintiffs opposed defendants’ motion and moved to amend the initial class certification to add subclasses and to recertify the existing Rule 23(b)(2) class as a hybrid class, with claims for comprehensive declaratory and injunctive relief certified under Rule 23(b)(2) and individual claims for compensatory education and/or reimbursement certified under Rule 23(b)(3).  The court granted plaintiffs’ motion for hybrid certification and denied in part defendants’ motion to decertify the class.  The district court concluded that the requested subclasses were unnecessary.

The District of Columbia appealed the district court’s decisions to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (case numbers 11-7153 and 12-7042), arguing that the case was wrongly certified as a class action.  AARP, the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the National Disability Rights Network, the National Health Law Program, the National Federation for the Blind, and the University Legal Services Protection & Advocacy Program filed an amici curiae brief in support of plaintiffs-appellees.

On April 12, 2013, the court of appeals issued its opinion that “vacate[d] the order certifying the class and, consequently, the orders finding liability and ordering relief to that class” and “remand[ed] the case to the district court for reconsideration of whether a class, classes, or subclasses may be certified, and if so, thereafter to redetermine liability and appropriate relief.”

On June 4, 2013, plaintiffs moved in the district court for recertification based on four subclasses, each class related to one of four claims, and for reinstatement of the liability and injunctive determinations. 

If you have any questions about the case, please call Todd Gluckman at 202-204-8482.

Related Documents

Court of Appeals’ Opinion, dated April 12, 2013

Amended Complaint

Memorandum Opinion Granting Class Certification, dated August 25, 2006

Memorandum Opinion (Class Action Issues), dated November 16, 2011

Memorandum Opinion & Findings of Fact And Conclusions of Law, dated November 16. 2011


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