Weissburg v. Lancaster School District
United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
591 F.3d 1255 (2010)
Edward Weissburg was a child with developmental disabilities and was eligible for special education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (act). Edward attended school in the Lancaster School District (Lancaster) (defendant). After conducting an assessment, Lancaster classified Edward as mentally retarded. Joseph and Adria Weissburg (collectively, the Weissburgs) (plaintiffs), Edward’s parents, repeatedly requested Lancaster to change Edward’s disability classification to autistic because the Weissburgs’ psychologist had concluded that Edward was autistic but not mentally retarded. Lancaster declined to change Edward’s disability classification. Edward’s teacher was qualified to teach children whose primary disabilities included mental retardation and autism. The Weissburgs filed a due-process complaint, requesting a private assessment of Edward’s disability classification at public expense. After the due-process hearing, the administrative-law judge (ALJ) concluded that Edward should have been eligible for special education under the mental-retardation and autism classifications. Subsequently, Lancaster changed Edward’s disability classification to include two primary disabilities, mental retardation and autism. The Weissburgs then brought an action in federal district court against Lancaster for attorneys’ fees under the act. The act provided that the court could award attorneys’ fees to a prevailing party who was the parent of a child with a disability. To qualify as a prevailing party, a party must have succeeded in litigation, and the success must have materially altered the legal relationship between the parties. The district court concluded that the Weissburgs were not a prevailing party because the change in disability classification did not materially alter the relationship between Edward and Lancaster. The Weissburgs appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Pregerson, J.)
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