United States District Court, D. Oregon, Portland Division
OPINION AND ORDER
V. Acosta United States Magistrate Judge
lawsuit arose from plaintiff Forest Grove School
District's (“the District”) appeal from an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”)'s decision
under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
(“IDEA”), 20 U.S.C. §§ 1400-1482. At
issue is the District's provision of special-education
services to defendant Student. The issue currently before the
court is whether, following the court's order remanding
the case to the ALJ for determination and award of
compensatory transition services, the court should instead
hear evidence and determine the appropriate amount of
compensatory transition services.
2011, Student's parents initiated a due-process
proceeding with the Oregon Department of Education, asserting
a variety of defects with the substance and process of
Student's Individual Education Program
(“IEP”). Among the asserted defects was the lack
of a transition plan and transitional services from April
2010 until March 2011. The ALJ held a hearing in 2012. The
ALJ found that the District violated the IDEA in multiple
respects, including the transition plan and transitional
services issues. The District filed this lawsuit, appealing
the ALJ's decision to this court. Student cross-appealed
other aspects of the ALJ's decision.
2014, the court affirmed in part and reversed in part the
ALJ's decision. Forest Grove Sch. Dist. v.
Student (“FGSD”), Civ No.
3:12-1837-AC, 2014 WL 2592654 (D. Or. June 9, 2014). The
court's prior opinion and order, in relevant part,
determined the District violated the IDEA by failing to
provide transition services from April 2010 until March 2011.
Id. at *35. But the record was insufficient to
determine the appropriate amount of compensatory transition
services to remedy the District's failure to provide
appropriate transition services. Id. at *38. Because
the record was insufficient, the court remanded the case to
the ALJ for the narrow purpose of determining and awarding
appropriate compensatory transition services. Id.
Student appealed the court's decision to the United
States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. (ECF No. 44.)
The Court of Appeals affirmed the court's opinion in
October, 2016. (ECF No. 70.)
status report filed after the court of appeals' ruling,
the District requested that the court resolve the remaining
issues in the case in lieu of remanding the case to further
proceedings before the ALJ. (Jt. Status Rep. (ECF No. 82) at
2.) Student seeks remand of this case to the ALJ, consistent
with the court's previous opinion. (Id.)
district court's charge under the IDEA is to “grant
the relief the court determines to be appropriate”
based on the record before the court. 20 U.S.C. §
1415(i)(2)(C). The court previously determined that the
record was insufficient to determine the appropriate quantity
of compensatory transition services. FGSD, 2014 WL
2592654 at *38. Based on the insufficiency of the record, the
court determined appropriate relief was to remand to the ALJ.
Id. Remand for further administrative proceedings is
an appropriate remedy where the record before the court is
insufficient to determine an appropriate remedy. Shapiro
v. Paradise Valley Unified Sc. Dist. No. 69, 152 F.3d
1159, 1160 (9th Cir. 1998). Remand is particularly
appropriate where the parties did not “exercise their
right to request consideration of additional evidence”
before filing motions for summary judgment. Reid ex rel.
Reid v. District of Columbia, 401 F.3d 516, 526 (D.C.
Cir. 2005) (internal quotation marks omitted).
District asks the court to hear additional evidence regarding
transition services and award appropriate relief based on the
additional evidence. While the District is correct that the
court can hear additional evidence to supplement an
administrative record, the court declines to hear such
additional evidence in this case. Under 20 U.S.C. §
1415(i)(2)(C) and 34 C.F.R. § 300.516(c)(2), district
courts may hear additional evidence at the request of the
parties. The court has discretion to determine “what is
‘additional' evidence.” Ojai Unif. Sch.
Dist. v. Jackson, 4 F.3d 1467, 1473 (9th Cir. 1993)
(quoting Town of Burlington v. Dep't of Educ.,
736 F.2d 773, 791 (1st Cir. 1984), aff'd sub nom.
Sch. Comm. v. Dep't of Educ., 471 U.S. 359 (1985)).
“Additional” evidence supplements, but does not
replace, the administrative hearing record, consistent with
the requirement of “giving due weight to the
administrative proceeding.” Id. The
Ojai court gave some examples of appropriate reasons
for additional evidence, such as technical errors in creating
the transcript, evidentiary errors in the administrative
proceeding, and subsequent developments in the case after the
administrative hearing occurred. Id.
the District gives two reasons for providing supplemental
evidence in lieu of remand. First, the District argues that
determining the appropriate quantity of transition services
before the ALJ is likely to result in another appeal to this
court because the court found the ALJ's prior opinion not
careful and thorough. See FGSD, 2014 WL 2592654, at
*12. The District's argument is unpersuasive. The
court's prior opinion was not a judgment about the
competence of the ALJ. Instead, the policy underlying
judicial review of IDEA due-process decisions favors
remanding the remaining issue to the ALJ.
courts give IDEA due-process hearing decisions less deference
than other administrative decisions, the court's review
requires “recognition of the expertise of the
administrative agency” and avoids “substitut[ing
the court's] own notions of sound educational policy for
those of the school authorities which they review.”
J.W. ex rel. J.E.W. v. Fresno Unified Sch. Dist.,
626 F.3d 431, 438 (9th Cir 2010) (first quoting Gregory
K. v. Longview Sch. Dist., 811 F.2d 1307, 1311 (9th Cir.
1987); then quoting Van Duyn v. Baker Sch. Dist. 5J,
502 F.3d 811, 817 (9th Cir. 2007)). Here, the ALJ did not
take evidence of or determine the appropriate quantity of
transition services. FGSD, 2014 WL 2592654, at *38.
The policy of deferring to the expertise of the
administrative agency favors allowing the ALJ to make such a
determination. Accordingly, the court finds remand for
further administrative proceedings remains an appropriate
the District contends remand to the ALJ may cause undue delay
if the case is assigned to a different ALJ, because the
parties would need to “impart basic information about
Student” before presenting evidence on the remaining
issue. While some delay may be possible, the court is not
persuaded that the possible need to apprise a different ALJ
of the facts of the case and any consequent delay is a
sufficient reason to deviate from the normal remand process.
court declines the District's request to hear additional
evidence in lieu of remanding this case to the ALJ for
further proceedings. The court REMANDS this case for further
administrative proceedings ...