Summaries of Selected Opinions, 0919 COBJ, Vol. 48, No. 8 Pg. 86

Position:Vol. 48, 8 [Page 86]

48 Colo.Law. 86

Summaries of Selected Opinions

Vol. 48, No. 8 [Page 86]

Colorado Lawyer

September, 2019

August, 2019


No. 18-1327. Steven R.F. v. Harrison School District. No. 2. 5/28/2019. D.Colo. Judge Briscoe. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act—Free Appropriate Public Education—Mootness Doctrine—Capable of Repetition Yet Evading Review.

Plaintiff is a disabled student entitled to a free appropriate public education (FAPE) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Harrison School District No. 2 (the District) proposed to move plaintiff to another school. Plaintiff's mother disagreed with the proposal and filed a state complaint challenging plaintiff's proposed new placement. The state compliance officer (SCO) ruled that the District's decision to move plaintiff was not based on his individual needs and imposed various requirements before the District could change plaintiff's placement. Plaintiff remained at the same school for the 2014-15 and2015-16 school years, but the District again tried to move him for the 2016-17 school year. Mother filed another complaint and the SCO ruled in her favor.

The District challenged the ruling, and an administrative law judge determined that plaintiff was not deprived of FAPE or educational benefits and his mother was not deprived of her right to participate in the decision-making process. Mother appealed to the district court, which found that the District had denied plaintiff a FAPE.

On appeal, the District asked the Tenth Circuit to reverse the district court's ruling that it violated the IDEA. This case concerned plaintiff's 2016-17 school year, which already passed. Thus, the Tenth Circuit decided the case was moot because there was no actual, ongoing controversy. The District argued for application of the exception to the mootness doctrine for cases capable of repetition yet evading review. This exception applies where (1) the challenged action was too short in duration to be fully litigated, and (2) there is a reasonable expectation that the same complaining party would be subjected to the same action again. Here, the first prong was satisfied by the one-year duration of a school year. As to the second prong, although the District argued that mother would challenge plaintiff's placement for the next school year, this does not satisfy the mootness exception because the procedural challenges at issue were fact-specific to the 2016-17 school year, and nothing suggests that these same alleged procedural failures will be at issue in subsequent challenges mother may bring. The appeal was dismissed as moot.

No. 17-9558. Big Horn Coal Co. v. Sadler.

6/4/2019. Dep't of Labor Benefits Review Board. Judge Ebel. Total Disability Diagnosis—Black Lung Benefits Act—Statute of Limitations—Tolling—Regulation—Extraordinary Circumstances—Exhaustion.

Sadler worked as a coal miner for Big Horn Coal Co. (Big Horn). He filed three claims for benefits under the Black Lung Benefits Act (BLBA), 30 U.S.C. §§ 901 to 944, which provides that a claimant must file for benefits within three years of a medical determination of total disability due to black lung disease. 20 C.F.R. 725.308(c) interprets the BLBA's statute of limitations, 30 U.S.C. § 932(f), and provides that the limitations period may be tolled for extraordinary circumstances. Sadler filed his third claim, which is at issue in this appeal, five years after his total disability diagnosis. An administrative law judge (ALJ) found that extraordinary circumstances existed and awarded Sadler...

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