University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
new search
page permalink
Case Name Emma C. v. Eastin ED-CA-0001
Docket / Court 3:96-cv-04179-TEH ( N.D. Cal. )
State/Territory California
Case Type(s) Education
Case Summary
Plaintiffs filed a class action on November 18, 1996, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA"), 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et seq.; Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794; ... read more >
Plaintiffs filed a class action on November 18, 1996, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA"), 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et seq.; Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794; the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12131 et seq.; and a variety of state law causes of action. The eight named plaintiffs were school-aged children with disabilities who then attended, or had in the past attended, schools in the Ravenswood City School District ("Ravenswood"). Plaintiffs alleged that Ravenswood failed not only to meet their individual educational needs, but also failed to provide similarly-situated children within its jurisdiction a free appropriate public education ("FAPE"), as mandated by the various state and federal laws. The plaintiffs alleged that the state defendants failed to monitor Ravenswood's compliance with state and federal laws that mandate the provision of a FAPE to all children with disabilities, failed to adequately investigate complaints regarding Ravenswood, and failed to enforce the directives generated by state education department investigations. In addition to naming as defendants the state education department and various state officials, plaintiffs proceeded against Ravenswood City School District and a number of district officials. The plaintiffs sought class action status for the case and declaratory, injunctive, and compensatory relief. Attorneys from the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, Inc., the Youth and Education Law Project, and the East Palo Alto Community Law Project represented the plaintiffs, as did private counsel.

On October 17, 1997, District Judge Thelton E. Henderson ruled upon several defense motions seeking to dismiss or limit the plaintiffs' case. The judge, who had earlier (in July) dismissed the school district defendants from the case for the plaintiffs' failure to exhaust administrative remedies prior to bringing a lawsuit under IDEA and then reversed that decision upon reconsideration, refused the state defendants' request to be similarly dismissed from the case, finding that administrative exhaustion would be excused on the facts on the case. Judge Henderson, continuing, also ruled that (1) compensatory damages were available under the IDEA, and monetary relief was also available in a § 1983 suit aimed at enforcing rights protected by the IDEA; (2) Congress' express abrogations of Eleventh Amendment immunity for claims under the IDEA, the ADA, and the Rehabilitation Act were enacted pursuant to a valid exercise of power under the Fourteenth Amendment; (3) the state education department was a state agency and thus cloaked by Eleventh Amendment immunity; (4) insofar as the § 1983 claim sought retrospective relief, it could not be maintained against state officials in their official capacities, but could be maintained against state officials in their official capacity for injunctive relief, and plaintiffs could proceed with their § 1983 claims against the state officials in their individual capacities; (5) the Eleventh Amendment barred pendent state law claims against the state education department and state officials named in their official capacities, but had no application to a suit against state officials in their individual capacities; and (6) the complaint satisfied liberal federal pleading requirements, as to allegations of "discrimination" by state defendants, given that the term is defined in relevant federal regulations. Emma C. v. Eastin, 985 F. Supp. 940 (N.D. Cal. 1997). In November 1997, the district court certified a class comprised of children residing in the Ravenswood Elementary School District who were, are, or will be entitled to free and appropriate public education under federal and state laws.

The lawsuit prompted a state investigation into the allegations, finding them substantiated. State experts confirmed widespread non-compliance with special education requirements. The state developed a Ravenswood Corrective Action Plan in 1998. After revisions, the plan was adopted as a consent decree to settle the case in 1999; however, the monitor (Mark A. Mlawer) appointed under the plan reported that the district did little to achieve compliance over a year after the decree issued. Deadlines were continually revised and yet continued non-compliance occurred. Reviewing efforts into 2001, the court termed the compliance as "abysmal" and "extremely bleak." The court observed a lack of candor and commitment on the school district's part, characterized by a fraudulent petition of community support for the superintendent that defense counsel filed, then withdrew, evidently upon press stories noting fraudulent aspects of the petition. In a lengthy unpublished order on October 4, 2001, Judge Henderson found the school district defendants in contempt. As a remedy for the contempt, the court considered appointing the state, or an expert it would retain, as a receiver to operate the district; however, the court felt constrained by case law to allow the district one more chance, particularly in view of district administrative personnel changes, recent retention of an expert consultant to assist the district, and explicit plans for improved compliance efforts. The court allowed for a seven month period for improvement and expressly warned it would continue to consider the propriety of a receivership as a contempt sanction.

By March 12, 2003, a detailed 65-page self-improvement plan for the district had been developed and tendered to the court, as part of an amended consent decree noting that the plan also aimed to end litigation over the remedy for the prior finding of contempt. The plan included specific time deadlines to achieve documented goals and provided for monitoring and state education department participation in the remedial process. The court approved the new decree at a hearing on March 31, 2003, and issued an order to that effect on April 3, 2003. The docket sheet for the case shows that by May 2003, the court was again considering contempt sanctions as a product of violation of the court's order regarding budget matters. We do not have copies of the order or pleadings surrounding this aspect of the dispute. Occasional settlement conferences were held during the remainder of 2003 and into 2004. On May 21, 2004, Judge Henderson issued an order granting plaintiffs' attorneys' fees and costs, according to the docket sheet. While the docket sheet is somewhat cryptic on the point, it notes a June 8, 2004, stipulation that attorneys' fees would be paid by the state and by the school district in amounts of $542,250, $36,150, $36,150, and $104,450 (with the latter three amounts being periodic payments by the district). Further attorneys' fees payment from the district of $14,377 was ordered on April 15, 2005. In August 2006, the state and the school district were ordered to split payment of $32,142 and $15,990 in attorneys' fees to plaintiffs' counsel. Somewhat smaller, but similarly split attorneys' fee payments were ordered by the court through 2011.

Active supervision by the court continues. After the Supreme Court's decision in Douglas v. Independent Living Center of Southern California, 132 S.Ct. 1204 (2012), which drew into question the existence of a cause of action under spending clause legislation against a state, if a federal entity played an active supervisory role, the state argued that no cause of action existed under IDEA, because the federal Department of Education approves state IDEA plans. Accordingly, the state suggested here, the district court lacked jurisdiction to assess the state's system for monitoring local school districts. On November 26, 2012, Judge Henderson disagreed. Emma C. v. Eastin, 2012 WL 5904750 (N.D. Cal., Nov. 26, 2012). He explained that the federal government had not ever assessed whether the state's monitoring system is "capable of ensuring continued compliance with the law and the provision of FAPE to children with disabilities in Ravenswood." Moreover, he said, even if the federal agency had ruled on that precise question, the issue was one of potential deference, not jurisdiction.

Joshua Arocho - 11/02/2012


compress summary

- click to show/hide ALL -
Issues and Causes of Action
click to show/hide detail
Issues
General
Funding
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action Section 504 (Rehabilitation Act), 29 U.S.C. § 701
Indv. w/ Disab. Educ. Act (IDEA), Educ. of All Handcpd. Children Act , 20 U.S.C. § 1400
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111 et seq.
Defendant(s) Ravenswood City Elementary School District
State of California
Plaintiff Description Children with disabilities who presently attend, or have in the past attended, schools in the Ravenswood City School District.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations None on record
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 2000 - n/a
Case Closing Year n/a
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
click to show/hide detail
Case Studies Courts and Kids: Pursuing Educational Equity Through the State Courts
By: Michael Rebell (Columbia University, and Campaign for Educational Equity)
Citation: (University of Chicago Press, 2009)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
3:96-cv-04179-TEH (N.D. Cal.) 06/25/2013
ED-CA-0001-9000 PDF | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Order [Re: Defendant's Motion to Dismiss] 10/17/1997 (985 F.Supp. 940) (N.D. Cal.)
ED-CA-0001-0024 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Order Re: Contempt 10/04/2001 (2001 WL 1180636) (N.D. Cal.)
ED-CA-0001-0002 PDF | WESTLAW | Detail
Order of Referral to Magistrate Judge Re: Potential Sanctions 10/04/2001 (2001 WL 1180638 / 2001 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 16119) (N.D. Cal.)
ED-CA-0001-0025 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Ravenswood Self-Improvement Plan (RSIP) 03/12/2003
ED-CA-0001-0003 PDF | Detail
Order Re: Final Approval of First Amended Consent Decree 04/03/2003 (N.D. Cal.)
ED-CA-0001-0001 PDF | Detail
First Amended Consent Decree 04/03/2003
ED-CA-0001-0005 PDF | Detail
[Defendants'] Joint Submission of Agreed 2007-2008 RSIP Budget; Stipulation Regarding Allocation of RSIP and Court Monitor Budget and [Proposed] Order Thereon 06/11/2007
ED-CA-0001-0004 PDF | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order re: Directives and CDE Technical Assistance, Oversight, and Monitoring Regarding Ravenswood's Delivery of Services and Related Issues 12/20/2007 (2007 WL 4554321) (N.D. Cal.)
ED-CA-0001-0006 PDF | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Joint Stipulation and Order re: Revisions to RSIP Requirements 6.2.1, 9.2.1 and 9.3.1 02/14/2008 (N.D. Cal.)
ED-CA-0001-0007 PDF | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Imposing Sanctions on Defendants California Department of Education 03/17/2008 (2008 WL 728875) (N.D. Cal.)
ED-CA-0001-0008 PDF | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order 06/05/2008 (N.D. Cal.)
ED-CA-0001-0009 PDF | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Amended Ravenswood City School District’s and California Department of Education’s Joint Submission of Agreed 2008-2009 RSIP Budget; Stipulation Regarding Allocation of RSIP and Court Monitor Budget and Order 08/19/2008 (N.D. Cal.)
ED-CA-0001-0010 PDF | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Regarding Provision of Compensatory Services 10/08/2008 (2008 WL 4532561) (N.D. Cal.)
ED-CA-0001-0011 PDF | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
All Parties’ Stipulation re: Plan for Provision of Compensatory Services; Order Thereon 02/17/2009 (N.D. Cal.)
ED-CA-0001-0012 PDF | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Modifying the First Amended Consent Decree and Vacating Hearing 02/24/2009 (2009 WL 482261) (N.D. Cal.)
ED-CA-0001-0013 PDF | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Stipulated Order re: Payment of Plaintiff's Attorneys' Fees and Costs 07/21/2009 (N.D. Cal.)
ED-CA-0001-0014 PDF | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Final Joint Statement and Stipulation Concerning RSIP Benchmark and Compliance Framework 07/08/2010
ED-CA-0001-0015 PDF | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Stipulated Order re: Payment of Plaintiffs' Attorneys' Fees and Costs for the Period January 1, 2010 Through June 30, 2010. 03/09/2011 (N.D. Cal.)
ED-CA-0001-0016 PDF | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Defendants' Final Stipulation on RSIP Budget and Court Monitor's Budget for Fiscal Year 2011-2012, With Exhibit A Attached 05/11/2011 (N.D. Cal.)
ED-CA-0001-0017 PDF | Detail
Stipulated Order re: Payment of Plaintiffs' Attorneys' Fees and Costs For the Period of July 1, 2010 Through June 30, 2011. 12/22/2011 (N.D. Cal.)
ED-CA-0001-0018 PDF | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Stipulated Order re: Payment of Plaintiffs' Attorneys Fees and Costs For the Period of July 1, 2011, Through December 31, 2011 03/29/2012 (N.D. Cal.)
ED-CA-0001-0019 PDF | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Third Joint Statement re: CDE Monitoring of the Provision of FAPE in Ravenswood City School District 04/20/2012
ED-CA-0001-0020 PDF | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Defendants' Final Stipulation on RSIP Budget and Court Monitor's Budget for Fiscal Year 2012-2013 With Exhibit A Attached 05/14/2012 (N.D. Cal.)
ED-CA-0001-0021 PDF | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Denying Motions Objecting to the Monitor's July 16, 2012 Determinations 11/26/2012 (2012 WL 5904750) (N.D. Cal.)
ED-CA-0001-0022 PDF | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Setting Status Conference and Benchmark Framework Deadlines 06/20/2013 (N.D. Cal.)
ED-CA-0001-0023 PDF | Detail
Document Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Denying State Defendant California Department of Education’s Motion Objecting to, and Seeking to Set Aside, the Court Monitor’s January 9, 2014 Report 07/02/2014 (2014 WL 2989946) (N.D. Cal.)
ED-CA-0001-0026 PDF | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Order Denying State Defendants' Motion to Stay July 2, 2014 Order 08/25/2014 (2014 WL 4220919) (N.D. Cal.)
ED-CA-0001-0027 PDF | WESTLAW | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Judges Henderson, Thelton Eugene (N.D. Cal.)
ED-CA-0001-0001 | ED-CA-0001-0002 | ED-CA-0001-0006 | ED-CA-0001-0007 | ED-CA-0001-0008 | ED-CA-0001-0009 | ED-CA-0001-0010 | ED-CA-0001-0011 | ED-CA-0001-0012 | ED-CA-0001-0013 | ED-CA-0001-0014 | ED-CA-0001-0015 | ED-CA-0001-0016 | ED-CA-0001-0017 | ED-CA-0001-0018 | ED-CA-0001-0019 | ED-CA-0001-0020 | ED-CA-0001-0021 | ED-CA-0001-0022 | ED-CA-0001-0023 | ED-CA-0001-0024 | ED-CA-0001-0025 | ED-CA-0001-0026 | ED-CA-0001-0027 | ED-CA-0001-9000
Larson, James L. (N.D. Cal.) [Magistrate]
ED-CA-0001-9000
Monitors/Masters Mlawer, Mark (California)
ED-CA-0001-0025 | ED-CA-0001-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Bal, Colleen (California)
ED-CA-0001-0001 | ED-CA-0001-0005
Cummings, Larisa M. (California)
ED-CA-0001-0014 | ED-CA-0001-0015 | ED-CA-0001-0016 | ED-CA-0001-0018 | ED-CA-0001-0019 | ED-CA-0001-0020 | ED-CA-0001-9000
Feldman, Robert P. (California)
ED-CA-0001-0001 | ED-CA-0001-0005 | ED-CA-0001-9000
Giles , David R. (California)
ED-CA-0001-0024 | ED-CA-0001-9000
Koski, William Sheldon (California)
ED-CA-0001-0005 | ED-CA-0001-0007 | ED-CA-0001-0012 | ED-CA-0001-0014 | ED-CA-0001-0015 | ED-CA-0001-0016 | ED-CA-0001-0018 | ED-CA-0001-0019 | ED-CA-0001-0020 | ED-CA-0001-0025 | ED-CA-0001-9000
Lipton, Diane (California)
ED-CA-0001-0024 | ED-CA-0001-0025 | ED-CA-0001-9000
Mayerson, Arlene Brynne (California)
ED-CA-0001-0005 | ED-CA-0001-9000
Sagy, Rony (California)
ED-CA-0001-0024 | ED-CA-0001-0025 | ED-CA-0001-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Aguilar, Edmundo (California)
ED-CA-0001-9000
Armsby, Aimee B. (California)
ED-CA-0001-0004 | ED-CA-0001-0007 | ED-CA-0001-0016 | ED-CA-0001-0017 | ED-CA-0001-0018 | ED-CA-0001-0019 | ED-CA-0001-0020 | ED-CA-0001-0021 | ED-CA-0001-9000
Bedwell, Marsha A. (California)
ED-CA-0001-9000
Casey, Thomas F. III (California)
ED-CA-0001-0001 | ED-CA-0001-0004 | ED-CA-0001-0005 | ED-CA-0001-9000
Chambers, Shannon Michelle (California)
ED-CA-0001-0014 | ED-CA-0001-9000
Freifeld, Douglas N. (California)
ED-CA-0001-9000
Goldberg, Michelle L. (California)
ED-CA-0001-9000
Hernandez, Lisa Soto (California)
ED-CA-0001-9000
Hersher, Michael E. (California)
ED-CA-0001-0025 | ED-CA-0001-9000
Holtzman, Jonathan V. (California)
ED-CA-0001-9000
Jones, Urrea C. (California)
ED-CA-0001-0024 | ED-CA-0001-0025 | ED-CA-0001-9000
Lacy, Paul E. (California)
ED-CA-0001-9000
Ledda, Derek (California)
ED-CA-0001-9000
Magana, Martine (California)
ED-CA-0001-0024 | ED-CA-0001-9000
Marquez, Miguel (California)
ED-CA-0001-0001
Meola, Kathryn Elizabeth (California)
ED-CA-0001-0015 | ED-CA-0001-9000
Murray, Ann M. (California)
ED-CA-0001-0001 | ED-CA-0001-0005 | ED-CA-0001-9000
Nibbelin, John D. (California)
ED-CA-0001-0004 | ED-CA-0001-9000
Prince, George D. (California)
ED-CA-0001-0004 | ED-CA-0001-0010 | ED-CA-0001-0012 | ED-CA-0001-9000
Reid, Felicia R. (California)
ED-CA-0001-9000
Snell, Karen L. (California)
ED-CA-0001-0025 | ED-CA-0001-9000
Tillman, Lisa Anne (California)
ED-CA-0001-0015 | ED-CA-0001-0016 | ED-CA-0001-0017 | ED-CA-0001-0018 | ED-CA-0001-0019 | ED-CA-0001-0020 | ED-CA-0001-0021 | ED-CA-0001-9000
Vivas, Gabriel Cruz (California)
ED-CA-0001-9000
Weatherly, Charles L. (Georgia)
ED-CA-0001-9000
Weng-Gutierrez, Julie (California)
ED-CA-0001-9000
Whitlock, Eugene (California)
ED-CA-0001-0010 | ED-CA-0001-0012 | ED-CA-0001-9000
Yajima, Ava Chikako (California)
ED-CA-0001-9000
Zolotar, Barry A. (California)
ED-CA-0001-0025 | ED-CA-0001-9000
Other Lawyers Colton, Joseph R. (California)
ED-CA-0001-9000
Sexton, Sheila (California)
ED-CA-0001-9000

- click to show/hide ALL -

new search
page permalink

- top of page -