United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OF OPINION AND ORDER [RESOLVING ECF NO.
Y. PEARSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the Court is Defendant Roderick Linton Belfance,
LLP's (“RLB”) Motion for Judgment on the
Pleadings and/or to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter
Jurisdiction. ECF No. 46. Plaintiff Akron Board of
Education (the “Board”) opposes the motion.
ECF No. 47. Defendant replied. ECF No. 48.
This case involves an application for attorneys' fees and
costs in connection with Defendants Jason Wallace, Daniel
Bache, RLB, and Wallace & Bache, LLP's (collectively
“Defendants”) due process complaint filed on
behalf of Delaina Barney's child against Plaintiff under
the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (the
“IDEA”), 20 U.S.C. §§
1400-1482. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant
RLB's Motion (ECF No. 46) is denied and the
matter will proceed against the defendants named in the First
Amended Complaint (ECF No. 36).
December 15, 2014, Defendants filed an IDEA due process
complaint on behalf of Delaina Barney, the parent of J.B.
(“Student”), against the Board challenging
Student's Individualized Education Program
(“IEP”), and alleging that he was not afforded a
free appropriate public education (“FAPE”).
ECF No. 36 at PageID#: 535. The complaint was
received by the Ohio Department of Education, and an
impartial hearing officer (“IHO”) was assigned.
Id. at PageID#: 538. The remedies sought by
Defendants in filing the due process complaint included
attorneys' fees for themselves, for the parent to be
determined the prevailing party, compensatory education,
extended school year services, and education in the least
restrictive environment. Id.On June 11, 2015, the
IHO issued a Decision denying the parent's due process
complaint in its entirety, thereby, entitling the Board to
prevailing party status. Id. at PageID#: 542.
appealed the decision of the IHO to the state law review
officer (“SLRO”). Id. at PageID#: 546.
After reviewing the record, the SLRO issued a Final Decision
and Order on November 9, 2015, affirming the decision of the
IHO. Id.The SLRO found that the IHO conducted the
hearing in a fair and appropriate manner. ECF No. 36 at
December 2015, Defendants continued to litigate their due
process action by filing a Notice of Appeal seeking a review
of the SLRO's decision in the Summit County, Ohio Court
of Common Pleas, being Case No. CV-2015-12-5779.
Id.The Board removed the case to this Court on
January 19, 2016, on the basis of federal question
jurisdiction, identified as Case No. 5:16-CV-112. See ECF
No. 1 at PageID#: 2 (Case No. 5:16-CV-112) (related
resolution of the administrative appeal, Case No.
5:16-CV-112, Plaintiff Board filed an action to recover fees
in the administrative proceedings under the IDEA. ECF No.
1. On February 7, 2017, Plaintiff filed a First Amended
Complaint to recover attorneys' fees and costs against
Defendants, while adding a new party-Defendant Wallace &
Bache LLP, and clarifying their new address. ECF No.
36. Pursuant to the Court's Case Management Order
(ECF No. 31), the Court stayed proceedings in this
case until the final resolution of the administrative appeal,
Case No. 5:16-CV-112. On September 22, 2017, the Court
rendered judgment in favor of the Board, granting the
Board's Motion for Judgment on the Administrative Record,
and affirming the determinations of the IHO and SLRO. ECF
Nos. 36 and 37 (Case No. 5:16-CV-112) (related
5, 2017, Defendant RLB filed a Motion for Judgment on the
Pleadings and/or to Dismiss for Lack of Subject Matter
Jurisdiction. ECF No. 46. Plaintiff Board responded,
ECF No. 47, and Defendant replied, ECF No.
48. For the reasons set forth below, the Court denies
Defendant's Motion (ECF No. 46).
Standard of Review
R. Civ. P. 12(c) provides that “[a]fter the
pleadings are closed-but early enough not to delay trial-a
party may move for judgment on the pleadings.” A motion
for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12(c) is
reviewed under the same standard applicable to a motion to
dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). Tucker v.
Middleburg-Legacy Place, To survive a [Rule
12(b)(6)] motion to dismiss, [the complaint] must allege
‘enough facts to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.'” Traverse Bay Area
Intermediate Sch. Dist. v. Michigan Dep't of Educ.,
615 F.3d 622, 627 (6th Cir. 2010) (quoting Bell Atl. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “A claim has
facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content
that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that
the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677 (2009). A court
may dismiss a claim if its finds on the face of the pleading
that “there is an insurmountable bar to relief
indicating that the plaintiff does not have a claim[,
]” Ashiegbu v. Purviance, 76 F.Supp.2d 824,
828 (S.D. Ohio 1998), aff'd 194 F.3d
1311 (6th Cir. 1999), cert. denied, 529 U.S. 1001
purposes of a motion for judgment on the pleadings, all
well-pleaded material allegations of the pleadings of the
opposing party must be taken as true.” Wurzelbacher
v. Jones-Kelley, 675 F.3d 580, 583 (6th Cir.
2012) (quoting Tucker v. Middleburg-Legacy
Place, LLC, 539 F.3d 545, 549 (6th Cir. 2008)). The
Court “‘must construe the complaint in the light
most favorable to [the] plaintiff[.]'” Albrecht
v. Treon, 617 F.3d 890, 893 (6th Cir. 2010)
(quoting League of United Latin Am. Citizens v.
Bredesen, 500 F.3d 523, 527 (6th Cir. 2007)).
RLB moves for judgment on the pleadings and/or to dismiss
Plaintiff's First Amended Complaint on the bases that 20
U.S.C. § 1415(i)(3)(B)(i)(II) and (III) do not expressly
impose vicarious liability on law firms; Plaintiff's
action was not timely commenced within the alleged applicable
statute of limitations; Plaintiff lacks standing to file a
fee action under the IDEA; the Court is not authorized to
award hearing officer and transcription fees as
“costs” under 20 U.S.C. §
1415(i)(3)(B)(i)(II) and (III); and, Plaintiff's First
Amended Complaint fails to plead facts that are sufficient to
state a claim for relief under 20 U.S.C. §
1415(i)(3)(B)(i)(III). ECF No. 46. Each argument
fails and is addressed in turn.
Law Firm Liability Under 20 U.S.C. §