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Case Name Renee v. Duncan ED-CA-0006
Docket / Court 4:07-cv-04299-PJH ( N.D. Cal. )
State/Territory California
Case Type(s) Education
Case Summary
On August 21, 2007, a group of California students, their parents, and a related nonprofit filed this lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. The plaintiffs alleged that moderate- and low-income minority ... read more >
On August 21, 2007, a group of California students, their parents, and a related nonprofit filed this lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. The plaintiffs alleged that moderate- and low-income minority students were being harmed by the DOE's regulation allowing interns and others who had not achieved full state certification to qualify as "highly qualified" teachers. The plaintiffs, represented by a combination of public interest and private counsel, sought declaratory and injunctive relief under the Administrative Procedure Act, claiming that the defendants' regulation implementing the Federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act violated a congressionally mandated requirement.

Specifically, the plaintiffs claimed that by designating teachers who were in the process of achieving full certification as "highly qualified" the DOE had violated the clear congressional directive that "highly qualified" teachers teach students in their core classes. Congress defined "highly qualified" teachers as those who had completed their teacher preparation and had received full state certification. The DOE's regulation, however, allowed for a teacher to be classified as "highly qualified" while in the process of achieving full certification. The result, the plaintiffs alleged, was that intern-teachers, still in the process of being trained, were disproportionately teaching low-income and minority-descent students.

On motion for summary judgment, the district court (Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton) evaluated the plaintiffs' claim that the regulation conflicted with the NCLB. Applying Chevron deference (where a court defers to the agency's interpretation of a statute unless unreasonable), the court found that the regulation did not conflict with the statute because the NCLB never defined the phrase "full State certification as a teacher (including certification obtained through alternative routes to certification)." Therefore, Congress gave the DOE the discretion to clarify what the statute meant, including the ability to issue a regulation certifying that a teacher was "fully qualified" while in the process of achieving full certification.

On appeal to the Ninth Circuit, the plaintiffs argued that the DOE's regulations classifying teachers who were making progress towards achieving full certification, rather than having already been fully certified under state law, should not be afforded Chevron deference because it was unreasonable. In essence, the plaintiffs argued that the defendants' regulation resulted in the situation where, "a first-day participant in an alternative certification program working towards full state certification and a thirty-year, fully-certified teaching veteran are equally considered 'highly qualified' under the regulation, and states and districts are permitted to treat them identically for purposes of hiring, distribution, planning and public reporting."

But the DOE argued that whether the federal regulation defined "highly qualified" as only one who has achieved full certification or to also include those who are in the process of achieving full certification, the decision would still be up to the state to define who is fully certified under their own state law. Moreover, because the NCLB has been interpreted to not create an enforceable right against a state, a victory in this suit would not redress the plaintiff's alleged injury, thus leaving the plaintiffs without standing to bring their claim.

While initially issuing an opinion that held the plaintiffs lacked standing to bring to challenge the regulation, the original Ninth Circuit panel (Judges Dorothy W. Nelson, William A. Fletcher, and Richard C. Tallman), in a rare reversal, withdrew and replaced their first opinion with a new one. In the new opinion, the Circuit reversed itself and found that the plaintiffs had standing to challenge the regulation. After finding that the plaintiffs had standing to challenge the regulation at issue, the majority held that the regulation failed Chevron's test of deference to agency regulations. The court held that the regulation was invalid because "it is inconsistent with the unambiguously expressed intent of Congress." The holding was based on "the difference between the meaning of "has obtained" in [the statute] and the meaning of demonstrat[es] satisfactory progress toward in [the regulation]."

On October 12, 2010, the defendants moved for a rehearing. Then, in December of 2010, Congress passed a bill that included an amendment that would codify the Department of Education's regulation interpreting the No Child Left Behind Act's "highly qualified" classification as encompassing teachers who had not achieved full state certification and were still in the midst of their training programs. The amendment remained in the final bill signed by the President. As a result, Congress effectively overturned the Circuit's finding that the regulation was not entitled to Chevron deference and codified the Department of Education's interpretation of "highly qualified." The amendment, however, remained in effect only through the 2012-2013 school year.

On May 10, 2012, the Ninth Circuit granted the petition for rehearing and issued a new opinion in light of the amendment to the NCLB Act. The Circuit concluded that because of the temporary nature of the amendment, the plaintiffs' claims were not moot. But the Circuit agreed that the amendment overturned its prior decision. The Circuit also held that the plaintiffs' attorneys were not entitled to attorneys' fees because the DOE's position was "substantially justified."

There have been no further updates to this case since the Ninth Circuit's decision in 2012. There is no reason to think that this case is still ongoing.

Joshua Arocho - 07/19/2012
Ginny Lee - 03/09/2017


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Defendant-type
Elementary/Secondary School
General
Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. ยงยง 551 et seq.
Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Defendant(s) United States Department of Education
Plaintiff Description Parents and students of California School Districts and nonprofit organizations dedicated to educational equality
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None
Case Ongoing No reason to think so
Additional Resources
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Links Blackman. v. District of Columbia
http://www.bazelon.org/blackman-v-district-of-columbia/
By: The Bazelon Center (The Bazelon Center)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  S.S. v. Springfield Public Schools
http://www.bazelon.org/springfield-massachusetts-school-system/
By: The Bazelon Center (The Bazelon Center)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Doe v. Pasadena Unified School District
http://www.bazelon.org/doe-v-pasadena-unified-school-district/
By: The Bazelon Center (The Bazelon Center)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  A.J. v. Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools
http://www.bazelon.org/a-j-v-cesar-chavez-public-charter-schools-et-al/
By: Bazelon Center (Bazelon Center)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
4:07-cv-04299-PJH (N.D. Cal.)
ED-CA-0006-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/05/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
First Amended Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief [ECF# 30]
ED-CA-0006-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/27/2007
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment and Exhibits in Support [ECF# 52]
ED-CA-0006-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 01/18/2008
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Defendant's Consolidated Memorandum in Opposition to Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment and in Support of their Cross Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF# 59-1]
ED-CA-0006-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/15/2008
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Granting Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment and Denying Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment [ECF# 76] (2008 WL 2468481) (N.D. Cal.)
ED-CA-0006-0003.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 06/17/2008
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Appellants' Corrected Opening Brief
ED-CA-0006-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/15/2008
Brief for the Appellees
ED-CA-0006-0008.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/12/2008
Opinion (623 F.3d 787)
ED-CA-0006-0005.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | External Link | Detail
Date: 09/27/2010
Plaintiffs'-Appellants' Response to Petition for Rehearing and Rehearing En Banc
ED-CA-0006-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/15/2010
Brief of Amici Curiae In Opposition to Appellees' Petition For Rehearing And Rehearing En Banc
ED-CA-0006-0009.pdf | Detail
Date: 11/24/2010
Order and Opinion [Ct. of App. ECF# 107] (686 F.3d 1002)
ED-CA-0006-0010.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 05/10/2012
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Fletcher, William A. Court not on record
ED-CA-0006-0005 | ED-CA-0006-0010
Hamilton, Phyllis Jean (N.D. Cal.)
ED-CA-0006-0003 | ED-CA-0006-9000
Nelson, Dorothy Wright Court not on record
ED-CA-0006-0005 | ED-CA-0006-0010
Tallman, Richard C. (FISCR)
ED-CA-0006-0005 | ED-CA-0006-0010
Plaintiff's Lawyers Affeldt, John T. (California)
ED-CA-0006-0004 | ED-CA-0006-0006 | ED-CA-0006-0007 | ED-CA-0006-9000
Cook, David B (District of Columbia)
ED-CA-0006-0001 | ED-CA-0006-0002 | ED-CA-0006-0004 | ED-CA-0006-0006 | ED-CA-0006-0007 | ED-CA-0006-9000
Kini, Tara Elizabeth (California)
ED-CA-0006-0004 | ED-CA-0006-0006 | ED-CA-0006-9000
Pearlman, Jenny (California)
ED-CA-0006-9000
Perroton, Nicole Elise (California)
ED-CA-0006-0001 | ED-CA-0006-0002 | ED-CA-0006-9000
Simes, Jeffrey A (New York)
ED-CA-0006-0001 | ED-CA-0006-0004 | ED-CA-0006-0006 | ED-CA-0006-0007 | ED-CA-0006-9000
Stone, Elizabeth Frances (California)
ED-CA-0006-0001 | ED-CA-0006-0002 | ED-CA-0006-0004 | ED-CA-0006-9000
Thompson, Patrick (California)
ED-CA-0006-0001 | ED-CA-0006-0002 | ED-CA-0006-0004 | ED-CA-0006-0006 | ED-CA-0006-0007
Defendant's Lawyers Hyde, Michael Quenten (District of Columbia)
ED-CA-0006-9000
Katsas, Gregory G. (District of Columbia)
ED-CA-0006-0008
Klien, Alisa B (District of Columbia)
ED-CA-0006-0008
Schools, Scott N (South Carolina)
ED-CA-0006-0008
Stern, Mark B. (District of Columbia)
ED-CA-0006-0008
Talbert, Kent (District of Columbia)
ED-CA-0006-0008 | ED-CA-0006-9000
Other Lawyers Alepin, Dominique Chantale (California)
ED-CA-0006-0009
Compton, Charles T.C. (California)
ED-CA-0006-0009
Santaguida, Bryson (California)
ED-CA-0006-0009
Verrilli, Donald B. Jr. (District of Columbia)
ED-CA-0006-9000

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