If you're going to get overturned by the Ninth Circuit, it must be nice when it's done almost apologetically.
The court today reversed San Jose U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel's ruling in an education suit in which he had upheld a school's decision to deny special education to a struggling student, with two judges saying Fogel hadn't considered pieces of relevant information.
"This appeal comes to us after careful consideration by an able district judge," Senior Judge John Noonan wrote. "We disagree with his assessment only to the extent that we find one claim not addressed and one report not measured for its relevance."
The appeal arose from a bilingual student's attempt to qualify for special education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The Pajaro Valley Unified School District in Watsonville originally denied the request, but a few years later changed its determination upon a new assessment.
The parents then argued he was entitled to compensatory educational services from the district because it originally failed to meet its obligations under IDEA. Fogel disagreed.
But in his analysis, he did not consider two pieces of information: a supplemental report finding the pupil had a learning disability, and a claim of an auditory disability.
Judge Richard Paez signed on to Noonan's opinion, remanding the case to district court.
It was a holding Judge Carlos Bea found "puzzling."
In dissent, Bea said the 2007 supplemental report could not have been relevant to the school's district's 2004 evaluation of the student, and that a district court has discretion whether to consider that kind of "additional evidence."
He also said the district was right not to consider the auditory disorder claims because they were only raised before the Ninth Circuit.
The majority, Bea said, reversed Fogel on "evidence and claims which were either irrelevant, waived, or improperly presented."