January 18: Arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court in Perez v. Sturgis Public Schools

On Tuesday, January 18 2023, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of Perez v. Sturgis Public Schools. The student, Miguel Perez, alleged that the Sturgis school district violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by failing to provide him with appropriate special education services. For example, Miguel, who was profoundly deaf, was provided with a paraprofessional who didn’t know American Sign Language and had to make up signs in an attempt to communicate with him. Miguel filed for a due process hearing but the Sturgis school district proposed a settlement, which was accepted.

Miguel then sued for damages under the ADA. The Sturgis school district held that because Miguel had accepted the settlement and not gone to a due process hearing, he had failed to exhaust his administrative remedies under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and, therefore, could not bring a case for damages under the ADA in federal court. The lower courts, agreeing with the school district and threw out Miguel’s lawsuit, ruling that the IDEA, required him to exhaust his claims against the Sturgis school district.

In the oral arguments before the High Court, Miguel’s lawyer, Roman Martinez, stressed that for over 12 years, the Sturgis school district neglected Miguel, denied him an education, and lied to his parents about the progress he was allegedly making in school. According to Martinez, the school’s conduct “permanently stunted Miguel’s ability to communicate with the outside world.”

The questions from the justices to Mr. Martinez, Mr. Yang (the Assistant U.S. Solicitor General arguing for the Biden Administration on behalf of Miguel Perez), and the lawyer for the Sturgis Public Schools, Shay Dovretzky, seemed to be favorable to Miguel Perez. Perez’s strongest supporters were Justices Elena Kagan, Ketanji Brown, and Clarence Thomas. Additionally, Justice Amy Coney Barrett seemed sympathetic to Perez’s argument.

A ruling in this case is expected early this summer but because the Perez case was one of the less controversial cases the Supreme Court will be ruling on this term, the ruling may be released earlier.

The opinion and the briefs submitted to the court are available on SCOTUSblog.  The Oral arguments made before the Supreme Court are available on Oyez.

Stay tuned!!

Categories: Uncategorized

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