Fry v. Napoleon Community Schools Page 16

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Media for Fry v. Napoleon Community Schools

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 31, 2016 in Fry v. Napoleon Community Schools

Sonia Sotomayor:

So they already got the relief they wanted.

They got an admission by the school that she was entitled to bring the dog there.

Neal Kumar Katyal:

Notably --

Sonia Sotomayor:

They have already said that.

Neal Kumar Katyal:

Notably, Petitioners never make that argument, and it's certainty not in the complaint. And the reason for that -- what is in the complaint is that they felt that the dog wouldn't be able to be welcomed back. And so the idea that they could allow money damages for this type of situation without first exhausting the state processes is an end-run around the expert agency statute that Congress set up, which they wanted to give states and localities the first crack at resolving this instead of allowing parents to abandon the IDEA system and march into Federal court, which is exactly what happened here.

And I understand that there is awkwardness here, but that's an awkwardness of the statute Congress laid out.

Stephen G. Breyer:

It's not necessarily awkward.

You -- you forgot the words "before filing the complaint." Damages are something you get when somebody didn't give you something.

But go back in time before they make that decision.

At that point, what you want is the dog, not the money.

Now if that's the truth, you have to go to the board.

Once the board makes clear they won't give you the dog, at that time you're free to sue.

You've met any exhaustion requirement because it's futile.

They have made clear they won't. And this suit has been brought after that was done.

So I don't see how this suit is going to ever get back for exhaustion, because the school has made clear they won't.

So say exhaustion replies to future suits before anything happens, but not after the board makes clear exhaustion replies, but the futility exception also applies.

Am I right?

Neal Kumar Katyal:

Justice Breyer, we agree with the futility exception.

On the facts of this case, as the Sixth Circuit found, it's not available.

And the reason for that -- the reason for that is they haven't gone through the independent due process hearing.

You can't just say, oh, I met with some administrators, and they didn't like the dog.

You've got to go through the complicated process that IDEA says.

It's a time-sensitive one -- it's only 105 days, start to finish -- but you've got to go through the whole thing. They walked out on the process before it was over.

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

105 days is a big part of the school year.

Neal Kumar Katyal:

Correct.

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

I mean, so I think saying, all they have to do is go through a 105-day process is not particularly responsive.

Neal Kumar Katyal:

We don't mean to minimize that, Your Honor.

The statute says, you know, short timelines.

But again, we are only talking about money damages, so this isn't about injunction or the type of school year that -- all they are seeking is money, and so the 105 days doesn't deal with that problem of the school year.

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

Thank you, counsel. Mr. Bagenstos, four minutes.