The opinion of the court was delivered by: STANLEY BROTMAN, Senior District Judge
OPINION REGARDING NEW JERSEY'S MOTION TO DISMISS PURSUANT TO
12(B)(1) and 12(B)(6)
I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
This matter, essentially a monetary dispute, comes before the
Court to review the decision of an Administrative Law Judge
("ALJ"). ALJ Douglas H. Hurd decided that Rancocas Valley Board
of Education ("Rancocas Valley") had not provided A.R. with a
free appropriate public education ("FAPE"). In his final decision
dated January 16, 2004 ALJ Hurd ordered Rancocas Valley to pay
for A.R.'s placement in a twelve-month program at Devereaux. (Br.
at 3). The parties agree that, as a child with developmental
disabilities, A.R. is entitled to receive a FAPE under the
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA")*fn1
is entitled to receive special services under the Developmentally
Disabled Rights Act ("DDRA").*fn2
The disagreement concerns
whether Rancocas Valley or New Jersey ought to pay for A.R.'s
placement at Devereaux.
Seeking to avoid paying for what it qualifies as a "residential
treatment center" and not a school, Rancocas Valley filed a two
count complaint in this Court on March 8, 2004. The Complaint
named the parents of A.R.*fn3 and the State of New Jersey as
defendants. The first count seeks reversal of the ALJ's Final
Decision and Order under 20 U.S.C. § 1415 and N.J.A.C. 1:6A-18.3.
The second count, on the other hand, asks for much more.
Through the second Count of the Complaint Rancocas Valley asks
for an order: a) reversing the Hurd decision; b) declaring New
Jersey instead of Rancocas Valley responsible for the cost of placing A.R. at Devereux; c) finding that the
Vineland Development Center ("VDC") is an appropriate placement
for A.R.; d) directing the New Jersey Department of Education
("NJDOE") to promulgate an Interagency Agreement ("IA"); and e)
providing for the Division of Developmental Disabilities ("DDD")
to be made a party to the due process proceeding before the
In response to the Complaint, New Jersey filed a Motion to
Dismiss under Fed.R. of Civ. Proc. 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) for
lack of subject matter jurisdiction and for failure to state a
claim upon which relief can be granted. In its thirty-seven page
Motion to Dismiss, New Jersey attacks the seven page Complaint on
six grounds. Although the Court recounts several of the arguments
with greater specificity below, New Jersey's six independent
bases of attack can be summarized as follows.
First, defendant New Jersey argues that Count II should be
dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Second, New
Jersey contends that Rancocas Valley has no private cause of
action against the state under the IDEA. Third, the state argues
that the IDEA does not require the NJDOE to promulgate an IA with
the DDD. Fourth, New Jersey claims that Rancocas Valley lacks
standing to maintain the cause of action. Fifth, the state
alleges that the DDD has not waived its sovereign immunity since
it does not participate in the IDEA. Sixth, defendant alleges the
Complaint should be dismissed because Rancocas Valley failed to
exhaust administrative remedies.*fn4
Plaintiff opposes the Motion to Dismiss on several distinct
grounds. Where relevant, these arguments will be specifically
addressed. In reaching its decision, the Court has considered all of the arguments raised by the parties, including those made
during the oral arguments held on May 24, 2005.
II. THE COURT'S POWER AND ROLE
A. Subject Matter Jurisdiction
Two provisions found in § 1415(i)(2) create this court's
jurisdiction and direct the manner in which the Court conducts
(A) Any party aggrieved by the findings and decision
made under this subsection, shall have the right to
bring a civil action with respect to the complaint
presented pursuant to this section, which action may
be brought in any State court of competent
jurisdiction or in a district court of the United
States, without regard to the amount in controversy.
* * * *
(C) Additional requirements. In any action brought
under this paragraph, the court
(i) shall receive the records of the administrative
proceedings; (ii) shall hear additional evidence at
the request of a party; and(iii) basing its decision
on the preponderance of the evidence, shall grant
such relief as the court determines is appropriate.
20 U.S.C. § 1415(i)(2). To summarize, three principles from the
statute shape this Court's review. First, "any party aggrieved"
may bring an action on appeal to this Court so long as the action
relates "to the complaint presented pursuant" to § 1415; second,
the Court must base its decision on review on the "preponderance
of the evidence"; and, third, the Court grants relief it deems
One of defendant's grounds for its motion to dismiss is that
the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction with respect to the
second count of the Complaint. Defendant New Jersey claims that
Rancocas Valley cannot challenge the lack of an interagency
agreement in a district court of the United States. The Court
disagrees. The language creating subject matter jurisdiction is
both explicit and broad. For example, § 1415(i)(2)(a) grants
jurisdiction "without regard to amount in controversy", the Court has discretion to "grant such relief as
the court determines is appropriate," and any party aggrieved may
bring a civil action. The statutory language therefore manifests
an unmistakable intent to broadly define this Court's
jurisdiction with respect to these kinds of cases. In this way,
the grant of jurisdiction found within § 1415(i)(2)(a) empowers
this Court to exercise jurisdiction.
B. Motion to Dismiss Standard
When considering whether a complaint should be dismissed for
failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the
Court must accept all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint
as true and view them in the light most favorable to the
Plaintiff. ALA v. CCAIR, Inc., 29 F.3d 855, 859 (3d Cir. 1994);
Jordan v. Fox, Rothschild, O'Brien & Frankel, 20 F.3d 1250,
1261 (3d Cir. 1994); Schrob v. Catterson, 948 F.3d 1402, 1405
(3d Cir. 1991). The Court cannot dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint
for failure to state a claim "unless it appears beyond doubt that
the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim
which would entitle him to relief."Conley v. Gibson,
355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957) (citations omitted); D.P. Enterprises, Inc. v.
Bucks County Community College, 725 F.2d 943, 944 (3d Cir.
III. DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS
As Judge Orlofsky noted, the IDEA "is not a well-drafted law."
S.C. v. Deptford Bd. of Educ. 213 F. Supp. 2d 452, 454 (D.N.J.
2003). Even "after thirty years and much congressional tinkering,
the text of the IDEA still leaves courts at a loss to answer many
basic questions about how it is to be enforced, such as who may
sue whom, for what, and in what court." Id, In one way,
Plaintiff's Complaint highlights some of the systematic
deficiencies in how the IDEA functions within the State of New
Jersey. Moreover, Plaintiff's allegations demonstrate ...