Successful Defense of Special Education Due Process Hearing Officer
We successfully defended a special education due process hearing officer in a civil rights action filed in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The parent of a child with special needs initially filed a due process complaint against their local school district, alleging violations of the student’s rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The Pennsylvania Office for Dispute Resolution assigned a hearing officer to preside over the dispute, and after a full hearing, the hearing officer ordered the school district to fund an independent educational evaluation for the student’s benefit. The parent objected to the hearing officer’s decision and filed suit in federal court seeking to appeal the decision, but also alleging that by ordering the independent evaluation – which the parent did not specifically request – the hearing officer violated the family’s fundamental liberty and due process rights. The court agreed with our argument that special education hearing officers serve a role in due process hearings that is functionally equivalent to that of a trial judge, and so the hearing officer was entitled to quasi-judicial immunity. The court dismissed all claims against the hearing officer, with prejudice.