Federal Appeals in Special Education Cases

(619) 764-6168

What is a Federal Appeal in a Special Education Case?

Following an adverse administrative decision (e.g., you lost some or all of your legal issues) in the California Office of Administrative Hearings ("OAH"), the aggrieved party can appeal the OAH decision in federal court. 

The federal appeal is filed in the United States District Court in the appropriate jurisdiction. California has four federal districts: (1) Northern District, (2) Central District, (3) Eastern District, and (4) Southern District. For special education cases in San Diego, the federal appeal is filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. 

If one party files a federal appeal, the opposing party or parties can file a counterclaim seeking reversal of any aspect of the OAH decision with which they disagree.

When Must a Federal Appeal Be Filed?

In California, a federal appeal must be filed within 90 calendar days following the issuance of the OAH decision. Any party to the due process hearing can appeal.  

What Steps are Involved in a Federal Appeal in a Special Education Case?

There are several steps involved in a federal appeal. Below is a list of some of these steps:

  • File a complaint in the appropriate federal district
  • Notify OAH of the appeal
  • Request a copy of the administrative record from OAH
  • Serve the complaint on the opposing party or parties
  • Lodge copy of administrative record with the U.S. District Court
  • File an Answer if an opposing party files a counterclaim
  • Draft and file an Early Neutral Evaluation ("ENE") Statement with the assigned U.S. Magistrate Judge
  • Attend ENE Conference (if necessary)
  • Attend Case Management Conference (if unable to settle)
  • Discuss and agree on briefing schedule
  • Supplement the administrative record (if necessary and if the court grants your request to do so)
  • Review the record and decide what's important for your legal argument and what isn't
  • Draft and file a Motion for Summary Judgment 
  • Draft and file a Response to Opposing Party's Motion for Summary Judgment (if opposing filed a counterclaim)
  • Draft and file a Reply to Opposing Party's Response to Motion for Summary Judgement
  • Attend hearing (oral argument) if the U.S. District Court Judge requires oral argument

Can I Skip OAH and Go Straight to Federal Court?

Not if your legal action is based on the Individual with Disabilities Education Improvement Act ("IDEA"). If your action is based on the IDEA, you must exhaust your administrative remedies before advancing to federal court. 

An Experienced San Diego Special Education Attorney

When a special education case proceeds to federal court, the level of legal expertise required to litigate the case ratchets up. Litigants need to be familiar with the federal court's local rules and the individual magistrate's/judge's chamber rules. Litigants must also be able to confidently separate what's essential from what's non-essential in the administrative record (which can be thousands of pages) and organize the facts, law, and legal arguments so the judge will both understand your legal position and ultimately agree with you.

Paul has experience litigating special education cases in federal court and he can put you and your case in the best position to win. If a case has proceeded to federal court, there's a lot riding on the outcome. Don't go it alone.

If you have questions about a special education federal appeal, schedule a free consultation today.

Schedule a Free Consultation Today

Get your child's education program back on track in 2024.


IEP Law Firm PC is committed to answering your questions about California special education law and helping you address any issues you may be facing.

We offer a free consultation and will gladly discuss your case with you at your convenience. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.