Thursday, February 19, 2009

Judge issues new rules aimed at special education lawsuits

To try to stem the tide of lawsuits filed in District court Chief Judge Lee Satterfield has instituted new regulations for lawyers bringing special education related suits against the District
The rules are the first of their kind in the District governing special-education lawyers, who have turned what in other jurisdictions is a quiet practice area into a multimillion-dollar industry in the nation’s capital. For decades, D.C. school officials have regularly missed federal deadlines on testing and treating kids with disabilities. That has allowed lawyers to bill the city for tens of millions of dollars in litigation fees.

Outraged by the city’s special-ed legal bills, Congress capped fees in D.C. special-ed cases. But, as The Examiner has reported, some lawyers have gotten around the caps by filing multiple lawsuits for single students, alleging that each new blown deadline represents a separate cause of action.

D.C. has more special-ed hearings than the 50 states combined. The litigation has helped make D.C. the most expensive special-ed system in the nation: Taxpayers spend about $300 million a year for about 11,000 special-needs students.

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