Federal Appeals Court Upholds Corey H. Decisions
The U. S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit recently upheld
the rulings of Judge Gettleman in the Corey H. case. On May 13,
2002, the Seventh Circuit issued an opinion in Reid L. case, denying
the motions to intervene and the motion for a preliminary injunction.
The Reid L. parties, downstate students with disabilities
and downstate teachers of such students, sought to intervene in
the Corey H. case and sought a preliminary injunction to prohibit
ISBE from implementing the transition rules for a cross-categorical
system of special education certification. Judge Gettleman had denied
both of these motions.
The Seventh Circuit noted that Judge Gettleman's decision of February
19, 1998, specifically singled out that the categorical certification
system for special education teachers was a contributing factor
to the violation of the LRE mandate in IDEA.
In affirming the denial of the motions to intervene, the court
of appeals found that Judge Gettleman's rulings were justified given
that the prospective intervenors filed their motions too late, the
prejudice that the existing parties to the case would suffer if
the Reid L. parties were allowed to intervene now, and the
questionable nature of the legal injury the prospective intervenors
The court noted that the case was close to completion, after a
decade of litigation of the federal courts. If the Reid
L. parties were allowed to enter now, every one would be forced
to return to Square One, with the same old certification rules in
place, the same old problems under the IDEA, and no remedy in sight.
The court of appeals dismissed the argument that ISBE was trying
to defend the new rules that it had authored and allowed to take
effect over the express opposition of the JCAR and the Illinois
General Assembly. The Seventh Circuit concluded that this issue
was a red herring and stated: [T]he district court
properly found that the state authorities did not have the power
to override an injunctive decree issued by a federal court to remedy
a states violation of standards established by federal law.
Were it otherwise, we would risk a return to the unlamented period
when states asserted the right to interpose their laws against unpopular
civil rights decrees [citation omitted], a period that has long
been out to rest throughout the country.
The court emphasized that everyone must now comply with the rules
the ISBE itself drafted, under the spur of the new liability finding,
until such time as a new opportunity for public input on revised
rules arises or until the court chooses to terminate the decree.
The Seventh Circuit confessed to serious doubts about the standing
of the Reid L. teachers. The court explained that it was
hard to see what legally protected interest of such teachers had
been invaded and how the invasion had injured them. No teacher would
be decertified because of the new certification system
and standards or the transition rules; teachers would be able to
qualify for the new LBS I certificate over a three-year period through
their ordinary continuing education process; and in the meantime,
teachers could not be forced to teach in areas for which they are
The court continued: We would have just as little sympathy
if an attorney complained that her law license was impaired because
the state bar toughened its continuing legal education or bar membership
requirements. [Citation omitted.] One has no legally protectible
interest in taking easy classes rather than hard ones. The
Seventh Circuit concluded that the downstate teachers appeared to
lack standing to participate in the present case. As for the Reid
L. students, once the Corey H. plaintiffs obtained relief that
redressed the statutory violation, any injury that they may have
suffered has already been redressed.
In summary, the federal courts have made it clear that State law
and procedures are not controlling in this situation.