Recent Decisions- SUPREME COURT

Article excerpt

Final Decision

DOCKET NO.: 04-698

NAME: Schaffer v. Weast

DATE: Nov. 14, 2005

Parents of a learning disabled student challenged the appropriateness of an IEP that was set-up for their child. The administrative law judge ruled that the parents bore the burden of persuasion in such hearings and ruled in favor of the school district. The parents appealed this decision to the federal district court. The district court ruled that the burden of persuasion should be on the school district. The federal appellate court reversed ruling that the burden of persuasion at the administrative hearing rests with the party seeking relief. Held: The Supreme Court held that the burden of proof in an administrative hearing challenging an IEP is with the party seeking relief. The Supreme Court looked to the language of the IDEA statute. The court found that on the issue of burden of proof the statute is silent and thus looked at traditional notions of burden of proof. Those notions call for the party seeking relief to bear the burden of proving their case. Absent some reason to shift this burden, which in the present case the court found none, the burden should rest with the party seeking relief.

The petitioners argued that placing the burden of persuasion on school districts would further the IDEA'S purpose of providing children with a free appropriate education. The court rejected this argument pointing to the fact that Congress has implemented numerous procedural avenues for school districts and parents to arrive at mutually agreeable IEPs. Furthermore the court looked to the IDEAs "stay-put" provision which requires that a student remain in her "then current educational placement" during the pendency of an IDEA hearing rather than place the child in the parent's preferred educational placement. Thus the court found that Congresses' intention when passing the IDEA was that when its procedural requirements are respected parents will prevail when they have legitimate grievances. Schaffer v. Weast, 126 S.Ct. 528 (2005).

DOCKET NO.: 04-881

NAME: Lockhart v. United States

DATE: Dec. 7, 2005

Petitioner sued the federal government after it began withholding a portion of his social security benefits to collect a federally reinsured student loan debt that has been outstanding for over 10 years. The petitioner argued that the government's action was barred under the Debt Collection Act's 10 year statute of limitations. Furthermore the petitioner claimed that the Social Security Act, as amended, does not allow these benefits to be the subject of attachment or garnishment. Held: The Supreme Court held that the government can offset Social Security benefits to collect a student loan debt that has been outstanding for over ten years. The Supreme Court acknowledged that the Social security Act limits the ability to touch Social security benefits for the purpose of garnishment or attachment. However Congress has enacted more recent legislation which erodes this limitation. Congress has also enacted legislation which eliminates the 10 year limitation on collecting debts as the one at issue here under the Debt Collection Act. The Higher Education Technical Amendments removed time limitations for the collection of various student loans, including the ones at issue here. While this Act did not allow for the garnishment of Social Security benefits, the 1996 Debt Collection Improvement Act specifically allowed for the offset of benefits afforded under the Social Security Act when collecting payments on loans addressed by the Act, which included the one at issue here. Lockhart v. United States, 126 S.Ct. 669 (2005).

Review Denied

Decisions without published opinions in the lower court:

DOCKET NO.: 05-530

NAME: Watson v. Kingston City School District

DATE: Jan. 9th, 2006

CITATION: cert. denied, 74 U.S.L.W. 3388 (2006)

Decisions with published opinions in the lower court:

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