Cases go on the Dawg’s Sheesh-O-Meter when I utter an auditory “What??” upon reading the court’s decision. So here is the first entry of the new year. A 20-year old plaintiff was the prevailing party in his suit against the state Department of Corrections for its failure to provide FAPE while he was incarcerated. He incurred over $72,000 in attorneys’ fees. He will not recover them even though he was the prevailing party. The court denied the claim for attorneys’ fees because the statute speaks of “a prevailing party who is the parent of a child with a disability.” He’s not the parent, and so he’s out of luck.
Sheesh. The kid is a hero. He took on a state agency with a righteous cause and he won. He won because the DOC failed to live up to its legal responsibilities. I have a suspicion that New York is not the only state where the DOC fails to provide appropriate services to those inmates who need special education. Prevailing parties are allowed to recover attorneys’ fees because they should not have had to employ an attorney in the first place. If the state had done what it was supposed to do, the plaintiff in this case would not have incurred a big legal bill. So he should get reimbursed. Instead, the court issues a pinheaded decision that ignores the other part of IDEA that says that the rights of the parents transfer to the adult student. I say it again: Sheesh!
It’s J.S. v. New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, decided by the federal court for the Western District of New York. It’s published in Special Ed Connection at 79 IDELR 165. (W.D.N.Y. 2021).
DAWG BONE: IF IT GOES UP ON APPEAL THAT ATTORNEYS’ FEE BILL WILL GO UP AS WELL.
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Tomorrow: two boys and a girl at a football game. Uh Oh.