Walsh Helps Defeat New Jersey Department of Education’s Motion to Dismiss in Special Education Case

June 1, 2020 in Client Alerts, Firm News

A U.S. District Judge denied the New Jersey Department of Education’s (NJDOE) motion to dismiss the claims of parents of students seeking educational assistance under federal law in C.P. et al. v. NJDOE.  The complaint seeks injunctive relief to correct systemic flaws in the NJDOE’s handling of special education cases brought by parents and their children with disabilities.  Specifically, the plaintiffs seek to enforce their federal rights to a timely resolution of their claims under the 45-Day Rule set out in 34 C.F.R. 300.515.

In a written opinion, the Hon. Noel L. Hillman, U.S.D.J. resoundingly rejected each of the NJDOE’s arguments.  In a well-stated conclusion, the Judge explained that: “We are reminded of how precious time is, and how, once lost, it can never be recovered. And so philosophers, mental health professionals, pundits and politicians alike, all of various stripes, have asked us to reflect on what our priorities as individuals, families, and as a society as a whole ought to be. There should be no controversy in this case or otherwise that the education of a child – indeed all children – should be at the top of that list….[T]hese Plaintiffs have made out plausible claims that the system for the adjudication of IDEA disputes by the administrative state in New Jersey is profoundly broken and routinely violates the federal laws designed to ensure that our most vulnerable children remain the priority we all agree they are, not only in these times, but at all times.”

Currently pending before the Court is Plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction compelling the NJDOE to reform its dispute resolution system for adjudicating special education disputes to comply with the 45-Day Rule. Judge Hillman stated he will decide the application in a separate opinion and order. Judge Hillman’s opinion can be read here.

The case was brought by Walsh attorneys Thomas J. O’Leary and Zahire D. Estrella-Chambers, together with four other law firms. O’Leary’s special education law practice focuses on the representation of students with special needs and their families in the protection and enforcement  of their legal rights under the New Jersey Constitution, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the American with Disabilities Act, and other applicable law.  When disputes arise, parents rely on O’Leary for representation in mediation, as well as litigation before the New Jersey Office of Administrative Law and in federal and state courts. Estrella-Chambers also is a member of the Walsh Special Education team.

The case is C.P. et al. v. New Jersey Department of Educationcase number 1:19-cv-12807, in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.

For more information, please contact Thomas J. O’Leary at (973) 757-1045 or [email protected].