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In re Chisago Lakes School Dist.

January 4, 2005

IN THE MATTER OF CHISAGO LAKES SCHOOL DISTRICT, INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 2144, AND J.D.


Minnesota Department of Education File Nos. 582, 3-1300-15732-9.

Considered at Special Term and decided by Toussaint, Chief Judge; Willis, Judge; and Hudson, Judge.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

1. Because Minn. Stat. § 125A.091, subd. 24 (Supp. 2003), does not specify the method of appealing an administrative hearing officer's decision regarding special education services, jurisdiction over this direct appeal is accepted.

2. Future appeals of the administrative hearing officer's decision to this court under Minn. Stat. § 125A.091, subd. 24, shall be by writ of certiorari under the procedure specified in Minn. Stat. §§ 14.63-.69 (2002), except that, as prescribed by section 125A.091, subd. 24, the appeal period shall expire within 60 days after the hearing officer's decision is received.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Toussaint, Chief Judge

Appeal to proceed

SPECIAL TERM OPINION

FACTS

J.D., a minor child, attends school in the Chisago Lakes School District, Independent School District No. 2144 (the district). J.D. receives special education and related services from the district. In February 2004, the district initiated an administrative hearing under Minn. Stat. § 125A.091, subd. 12 (Supp. 2003), seeking a determination that J.D. is no longer eligible for special education services. The Commissioner of Education appointed a hearing officer, who conducted an evidentiary hearing. In a decision dated June 30, 2004, the hearing officer ruled that the district should be permitted to terminate special education services to J.D. because J.D. no longer meets the eligibility criteria.

On August 30, 2004, appellants, the parents of J.D., served and filed a notice of appeal and statement of the case, challenging the hearing officer's decision. This court questioned whether appellants should have obtained a writ of certiorari rather than filing a direct appeal. Appellants and the district filed informal briefs.

DECISION

Before Minn. Stat. § 125A.091 (Supp. 2003) was enacted, the procedure for an administrative decision pertaining to the identification, assessment, and educational placement of children with a disability was governed by Minn. Stat. § 125A.09 (2002). The former procedure involved a due process hearing initiated and conducted by and in the district responsible for providing services, with the right to obtain review of the local decision by a hearing review officer. Id., subds. 6, 7, 9. The statute allowed an appeal from the hearing review officer's decision to this court in accordance with chapter 14. Id., subd. 10. Proceedings for judicial review under chapter 14 are instituted by serving and filing a petition for a writ of certiorari not more than 30 days after the party receives the final decision and order of the agency. Minn. Stat. §§ 14.63, 64 (2002).

In 2003, Minn. Stat. § 125A.09 was repealed and replaced by Minn. Stat. § 125A.091. 2003 Minn. Laws 1st Spec. Sess. ch. 9, art. 3, §§ 9, 21. The new procedure entitles a parent or the school district to an impartial due process hearing conducted by the state when a dispute arises over the identification or provision of services to a child with a disability. Minn. Stat. § 125A.091, subd. 12(a). The parent or district may seek review of the hearing officer's decision by this court. Id., subd. 24. A party must "appeal" to this court within 60 days of receiving the hearing officer's decision. Id. But the new statute does not indicate that state judicial review must be in accordance with chapter 14, nor does the new statute indicate how an "appeal" to this court should be made.

"[I]n the absence of an adequate method of review or legal remedy, judicial review of the quasi-judicial decisions of administrative bodies, if available, must be invoked by writ of certiorari." Dietz v. Dodge County, 487 N.W.2d 237, 239 (Minn. 1992). "Because it mandates non-intrusive and expedient judicial review, certiorari is compatible with the maintenance of fundamental separation of power principles, and thus is a particularly ...


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