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Anchorage School District v. M.G.

United States District Court, D. Alaska

December 14, 2017

ANCHORAGE SCHOOL DISTRICT, Appellant-Respondent,
v.
M.G., and his parents, Appellees-Petitioners.

          ORDER

          SHARON L. GLEASON, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This order is intended to address all pending motions, except for Appellant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Docket 57), which is not yet fully briefed.

         At Docket 40, the Parents filed a *Sealed* Motion to Seal; the School District did not file a response to that motion. Good cause being shown, IT IS ORDERED that the motion to seal at Docket 40 is GRANTED. Exhibit 1 and Exhibit 2 to the Appellees' Motion to Supplement the Record, filed at Docket 40-1 and Docket 40-2, shall remain under seal.

         At Docket 43, ASD filed a Motion for Leave to Further Supplement the Appellate Record in Light of Delay in Discovery Production. However, in its Reply on the motion, ASD indicated that it would not be seeking further supplementation on that basis. (See Docket 60). Accordingly, the motion at Docket 43 is DENIED as moot.

         At Docket 61, the Parents filed a Motion for Expedited Consideration, seeking prompt rulings on all of the pending motions. ASD non-opposed the motion at Docket 66. The motion is DENIED as moot. Other commitments on the Court's calendar regrettably precluded the Court from addressing these pending motions on a more expedited basis.

         At Docket 63, Appellees filed a Motion for Extension of Time to File Opening Brief. That motion is DENIED as moot, in that Appellees have subsequently filed their opening brief at Docket 68. However, this ruling is not intended to preclude either side from seeking supplemental briefing or other relief based on the Court's ruling on ASD's motion to supplement at Docket 41, which is discussed in the balance of this order.

         At Docket 41, ASD filed a Motion to Supplement the Appellate Record. ASD seeks to add over 4, 000 pages to the record in this case. For the reasons discussed below, the motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

         Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”), and the amended version of IDEA, the Individuals with Disabilities Improvement Act, or IDEIA, numerous procedural safeguards are established to insure that public schools meet the unique needs of disabled children. See Ojai Unified Sch. Dist. v. Jackson, 4 F.3d 1467, 1469 (9th Cir. 1993). Parents may pursue an administrative hearing if they are dissatisfied with the services provided to their child under an Individualized Education Program (IEP). And if either the school district or the parents are dissatisfied with the results of that administrative hearing, they may appeal the results to a state or federal court.

         When a party appeals the administrative hearing result, the IDEIA provides, in pertinent part, that “the court shall receive the records of the administrative proceedings;” and “shall hear additional evidence at the request of a party.” 20 U.S.C. § 1415 (i)(2)(C). The statute also provides that the district court is to “bas[e] its decision on a preponderance of the evidence.” Id. As a result, judicial review in IDEA cases differs substantially from judicial review of other agency actions, “as the court may give less than the usual deference to the administrative hearing officer's findings of fact.” K.S. v. Fremont Unified Sch. Dist., 2007 WL 2554658 (Sept. 4, 2007 N.D. Cal.) (citing Ms. S. v. Vashon Island Sch. Dist., 337 F.3d 1115, 1126 (9th Cir. 2003), superseded by statute in non-relevant part, M.l. v. Fed. Way Sch. Dist., 394 F.3d 634 (9th Cir. 2005). But complete de novo review is inappropriate, as that would negate the administrative hearing process. Id.

         In Ojia United Sch. Dist. v. Jackson, the Ninth Circuit adopted the First Circuit's approach toward the supplementation of the record in IDEA cases:

We construe “additional” in the ordinary sense of the word, *1473 Perrin v. United States, 444 U.S. 37, 42, 100 S.Ct. 311, 314, 62 L.Ed.2d 199 (1980), to mean supplemental. Thus construed, this clause does not authorize witnesses at trial to repeat or embellish their prior administrative hearing testimony; this would be entirely inconsistent with the usual meaning of “additional.” We are fortified in this interpretation because it structurally assists in giving due weight to the administrative proceeding, as Rowley requires. Rowley, 458 U.S. at 206, 102 S.Ct. at 3051.
* * * * * *
The reasons for supplementation will vary; they might include gaps in the administrative transcript owing to mechanical failure, unavailability of a witness, an improper exclusion of evidence by the administrative agency, and evidence concerning relevant events occurring subsequent to the administrative hearing. The starting point for determining what additional evidence should be received, however, is the record of the administrative proceeding.
* * * * * *
The determination of what is “additional” evidence must be left to the discretion of the trial court which must be careful not to allow such evidence to change the character of the hearing from one of review to a trial de novo. A practicable approach, we believe, is that an administrative hearing witness is rebuttably presumed to be foreclosed from testifying at trial.... In ruling on motions for witnesses to testify, a court should weigh heavily the important concerns of not allowing a party to undercut the statutory role of administrative expertise, the unfairness involved in one party's reserving its best evidence for trial, the reason the witness did not testify at the administrative hearing, and the conservation of judicial resources.

Ojai, 4 F.3d 1467, 1472-73 (9th Cir. 1993) (quoting Town of Burlington v. Dept. of Education for Commr. of Mass., 736 F.2d 773, 790-91 (1st Cir. 1984)).

         Turning to the supplemental evidence that ASD seeks to add, the Court finds as follows:

         1. Missing portions of DEED record. Parents are not opposed to this supplementation, and this portion of the motion will be granted. The record will be supplemented to include the following (included as attachments to Docket 46):

a. March 2017 Pre-Hearing Transcripts [AR 6246-6358];
b. Court Reporter Master List of Exhibits from Due Process Hearing [AR 6359-6363];
c. Parties' Due Process Hearing Closing Briefs [AR 6949-7084, Docket 46-9 at 101 through 46-10 at 75] (also filed at Docket 40-1 and 40-2; see order at Docket 64); and
d. Exhibits filed with ASD's Motion for Reconsideration [AR 6736-6794].

         2. ASD's Pleading File. ASD's pleading file, marked at proposed AR 6364-7150, appears to be largely redundant to the administrative record, apart from the documents identified above in Part 1 of this order. (Docket 46-4 through 46-10, except as indicated in paragraph 1(c) above). The Court will not supplement the record with these duplicates. Accordingly, the motion to supplement with the balance of ASD's pleading file will be denied.

         3. Jennifer White Affidavit. ASD seeks to supplement the record with an Affidavit signed by Jennifer White. ...


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