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US Supreme Court to Hear Case Related to Children with Disabilities

October 3, 2022
Case concerns ability of children to seek all available remedies under federal disability law, after their constitutionally guaranteed public school education is denied.

The US Supreme Court has decided to hear Perez v. Sturgis Public Schools, an important case concerning the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Both statutes protect children with disabilities. At stake in this case is whether children denied an appropriate public education have a full and fair opportunity to seek redress under both statutes, as required by law, or instead may have their claims under the ADA barred simply because they successfully obtained relief via settlement under the IDEA.

The questions presented to the Court are:

(1) Whether, and in what circumstances, courts should excuse further exhaustion of the IDEA’s administrative proceedings under Section 1415(l) when such proceedings would be futile.

(2) Whether Section 1415(l) requires exhaustion of a non-IDEA claim seeking money damages that are not available under the IDEA.

Our client, Miguel Luna Perez, is Deaf. For 12 years, Miguel was denied reasonable accommodations at school, such as a qualified sign language interpreter, by the Sturgis Public Schools and Sturgis Public Schools Board of Education. As a result, Miguel was unable to learn or communicate with others, dramatically limiting his employment prospects and earning capacity.

As was his right, Miguel and his parents sought relief under both the IDEA and ADA. Ultimately, the parties settled the IDEA claim, with Miguel receiving all the available remedies under that statute. Miguel continued to pursue his ADA claim for money damages, but the Sixth Circuit — in a decision that split with 11 other circuits — held that he had to refuse to settle his IDEA claim if he hoped to pursue his ADA claim in federal court.

Partner Roman Martinez will argue the case before the Supreme Court. The Latham team also includes associates Nick Rosellini and James Tomberlin. In addition, the Law Office of Ellen Marjorie Saideman, the National Association of the Deaf, and Disability Rights Michigan are serving as co-counsel. Former Latham associate Caroline Flynn assisted on the cert petition.

Perez v. Sturgis Public Schools is the third Latham case that will be argued on the merits in the October 2022 term, along with Andy Warhol Foundation v. Goldsmith and Securities and Exchange Commission v. Cochran. Latham represented parties on the merits in five cases in the Supreme Court last term, resulting in four victories.