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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

5th Circuit: Failure to attend meeting subsequent to resolution session does not defeat parents attorney fee claim

ECTOR CTY. INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DIST. v. VB (5th Cir. 2011): Parent requested an impartial hearing. At the resolution session, the school district offered to schedule another CSE meeting to address the parent’s concerns. The district did in fact schedule such a meeting and, on the advice of counsel, the parent refused to attend. The matter went to hearing and the parent prevailed. The school district appealed. The district court held in favor of the parent, rejecting the school district’s argument that the parent had “unreasonably and needlessly protracted the litigation by refusing to attend the [CSE] meeting that would have implemented an alleged agreement made at the meetings.” The district court also awarded attorney fees to the parent. The 5th Circuit affirmed. The Court reasoned that alleged protraction of litigation is irrelevant with respect to the analysis as to whether a party has prevailed. It may, however, be relevant to whether a fee award should be reduced. Here, however, the Court rejected the district’s argument that a fee reduction was warranted. The Court refused to read into the law a requirement that the parent participate in a meeting subsequent to the resolution session.

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