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Snell v. State, Department of Human Services

United States District Court, D. Oregon

July 31, 2019

RENEE M. SNELL, Plaintiff,

          Renee M. Snell, pro se.

          Ellen F. Rosenblum, Attorney General, and Jesse B. Davis, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Of Attorneys for Defendant.



         Plaintiff Renee M. Snell seeks judicial review of state administrative proceedings relating to services that the Oregon Department of Human Service's Vocational Rehabilitation (“DHS” or “VR”) provided to Plaintiff. An independent hearing officer and reviewing official concluded that VR did not breach its agreement with Plaintiff by requiring a neurological assessment and VR did not improperly deny job placement services or a referral for job development to Plaintiff by requiring a neurological assessment. After receiving and reviewing the administrative records pertaining to Plaintiff's case, and considering additional evidence provided by Plaintiff in this action, the Court concludes by a preponderance of the evidence that that the state hearing officer and reviewing official did not err. See 29 U.S.C. § 722(c)(5)(J). Both parties filed motions for summary judgment. Defendant's motion for summary judgment is granted. Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment is denied.


         A party is entitled to summary judgment if the “movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party has the burden of establishing the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-movant and draw all reasonable inferences in the non-movant's favor. Clicks Billiards Inc. v. Sixshooters Inc., 251 F.3d 1252, 1257 (9th Cir. 2001). Although “[c]redibility determinations, the weighing of the evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the facts are jury functions, not those of a judge . . . ruling on a motion for summary judgment, ” the “mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the plaintiff's position [is] insufficient . . . .” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252, 255 (1986). “Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no genuine issue for trial.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (citation and quotation marks omitted).

         When parties file cross-motions for summary judgment, the court “evaluate[s] each motion separately, giving the non-moving party in each instance the benefit of all reasonable inferences.” A.C.L.U. of Nev. v. City of Las Vegas, 466 F.3d 784, 790-91 (9th Cir. 2006) (quotation marks and citation omitted); see also Pintos v. Pac. Creditors Ass'n, 605 F.3d 665, 674 (9th Cir. 2010) (“Cross-motions for summary judgment are evaluated separately under [the] same standard.”). In evaluating the motions, “the court must consider each party's evidence, regardless under which motion the evidence is offered.” Las Vegas Sands, LLC v. Nehme, 632 F.3d 526, 532 (9th Cir. 2011). “Where the non-moving party bears the burden of proof at trial, the moving party need only prove that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case.” In re Oracle Corp. Sec. Litig., 627 F.3d 376, 387 (9th Cir. 2010). Thereafter, the non-moving party bears the burden of designating “specific facts demonstrating the existence of genuine issues for trial.” Id. “This burden is not a light one.” Id. The Supreme Court has directed that in such a situation, the non-moving party must do more than raise a “metaphysical doubt” as to the material facts at issue. Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586.

         In cases involving district court review of an administrative order under the Rehabilitation Act, district courts apply a modified de novo standard to review the hearing officer's decision, similar to the standard district courts apply to a nearly identical provision of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Wasser v. N.Y. State Office of Vocational and Educ. Servs. for Individuals with Disabilities, 602 F.3d 476, 479 (2d Cir. 2010) (comparing nearly identical wording of 29 U.S.C. § 722(c)(5)(J)(ii) and 20 U.S.C. § 1415(i)(2)(C)); Diamond v. Michigan, 431 F.3d 262, 265 (2005).

Thus, although district courts must engage in an independent review of the administrative record and render a decision based on a preponderance of the evidence, the Rehabilitation Act requires substantial deference to [VR] on matters of vocational rehabilitation policy and district courts must give due weight to the findings of the state administrative proceedings.

Wasser, 602 F.3d at 480.


         A. Vocational Rehabilitation Procedures

         In order to understand the issues at the heart of this case, some background on Oregon's vocational rehabilitation (“VR”) services is helpful. VR is the office designated by the State of Oregon to administer comprehensive vocational rehabilitation services for individuals with disabilities under the federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973. An individual who receives or is eligible to receive these services is often referred to as a “VR client.” Generally, after determining eligibility, the client and the client's assigned vocational rehabilitation counselor (“VRC”), prepare an “individualized plan for employment” (“IPE”). 34 C.F.R. § 361.45(a). The IPE describes the employment outcomes sought by the client, the rehabilitative services needed to achieve that outcome, the criteria used to evaluate progress, and it also designates the client's third-party service providers, if any, often referred to as job developers. Id. § 361.46(a)(1)-(7). “To the extent possible, the employment outcome and the nature and scope of rehabilitation services to be included in the [client's IPE] must be determined based on the data for the assessment of eligibility and priority for services” under federal regulations.” Id. § 361.45(f)(1). The state may also conduct its own comprehensive assessment of the client's strengths, resources, priorities, concerns, abilities, capabilities, interests and informed choice and those assessments:

[m]ay include, to the degree needed to make such a determination, an assessment of the personality, interests, interpersonal skills, intelligence and related functional capacities, educational achievements, work experience, vocational aptitudes, personal and social adjustments, and employment opportunities of the individual and the medical, psychiatric, psychological, and other pertinent vocational, educational, cultural, social, recreational, and environmental factors that affect the employment and rehabilitation needs of the individual

Id. § 361.5(c)(5)(ii)(C).

         An IPE must be reviewed at least annually by the VR and amended if there are substantive changes in the employment outcome, the services to be provided, or the providers of the services. Id. ยง 361.45(d)(5)-(6). The IPE, and any amendments to ...

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