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The U.S. Supreme Court agreed last week to decide whether plaintiffs who prevail in civil-rights cases are entitled to seek reimbursement for the cost of expert witnesses, as they are generally allowed to do for legal fees and other court costs.

In West Virginia University Hospitals v. Casey (Case No. 89-994), the High Court will review a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit denying reimbursement for $104,000 in expert-witness fees incurred by the hospital in the course of a civil-rights case that it won.

In other action, the Court declined to review an opinion by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ordering New York State to fund an extra year of schooling for a handicapped adult whose education was delayed by a dispute over appropriate services.

The Second Circuit had been ordered last year by the Supreme Court to reconsider the case, Sobol v. Burr (No. 89-1091), in light of the High Court's ruling in Dellmuth v. Muth, which granted states immunity from lawsuits under the Education of the Handicapped Act. The appeals court decided that the case was not affected by that ruling.

In another case, Ellis v. Ringgold, Pa., School District (No. 89-1090), the Justices declined to review a lower court's decision limiting an award of back pay for a teacher whom the district was found to have denied a permanent job because of her race.

The Education Department's frequent errors in recent years in forecasting the amount it needs to adequately fund the Pell Grant program are not only avoidable, but almost willful, the General Accounting Office has charged in a new report.

For several years, department officials have adjusted their estimate of Pell Grant needs downward to reflect savings projected to accrue from proposed legislative changes, the report said. The Congress did not approve the changes, however, rendering the estimates inaccurate.

Responding to the report, Charles E.M. Kolb, deputy undersecretary for planning, budget, and evaluation, told the House Education and Labor Committee last week that department officials do their best to prepare estimates for a complicated program years in advance.

The department's $5.27-billion request for fiscal 1991 includes $371 million to cover expected shortfalls for fiscal 1989 and 1990. It also assumes $218 million in savings from unspecified changes in the program.

At a House appropriations hearing last week, department officials said that the Pell program would run out of money within two months--almost half a year before the end of fiscal 1990. They said they would not ask for a supplemental spending bill, but would wait for the 1991 appropriation.

A guide to the many federal programs aimed at aiding children and families, from preschool education to veterans' services, was issued last week by the House Select Committee on Children, Youth, and Families.

Representative George Miller, who chairs the panel, said in a statement that the report exposes the inadequacy of the federal effort. He noted that relatively few of the millions of poor Americans receive services.

Republican members argued in a separate statement that the report does not in itself support such a conclusion, and does not address the programs' effectiveness. The study reveals a system in dire need of overall coordination, they said.

Vol. 09, Issue 24

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