Special Education

Parents Must Have Lawyers in IDEA Suits, Court Rules

By Caroline Hendrie — June 21, 2005 1 min read
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Another federal appeals court has held that the parents of children with disabilities need to hire lawyers in court cases brought under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

David and Bonnie Cavanaugh of Middlefield, Ohio, sought to represent themselves in their case challenging the education program provided to their son by the 1,400-student Cardinal Local School District.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, in Cincinnati, held on May 18 that parents who are not lawyers cannot represent their children under the IDEA because the law gives the children themselves, not their parents, access to the courts.

“The Cavanaughs can point to no language in the IDEA that abrogates the common-law rule that nonlawyers may not represent litigants in court,” the panel’s opinion said. Appellate courts in the federal judicial circuits based in Atlanta, Chicago, New York City, and Philadelphia have reached the same conclusion, it added.

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