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D.R. v. Michigan Department of Education

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

November 2, 2017

D.R., as a minor through parent and next friend, Dawn Richardson, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
Michigan Department of Education, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS FOR STAY OF PROCEEDINGS [64, 65, 68]; DENYING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO ADJOURN [70]

          ARTHUR J. TARNOW SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On October 16, 2017, all Defendants filed notices of appeal of the Court's Order [48] denying in part Defendants' motions to dismiss. [Dkt. #55, 57, 59]. On October 23, 2017, Defendant Michigan Department of Education filed a Motion for Stay of Proceedings [64] and a Corrected Motion for Stay of Proceedings [65]. On October 24, 2017, Defendant Genesee Intermediate School District filed a Response [66], concurring in Defendant Michigan Department of Education's Motion for Stay and objecting to the Court's October 3, 2017 [sic] scheduling order. Also on October 24, 2017, Defendant Flint Community Schools filed a Motion to Suspend Pretrial Proceedings, Stay Proceedings, or Adjourn Hearing [68].

         The Court held a Status Conference on October 26, 2017. On October 27, 2017, Defendant Michigan Department of Education filed a Motion to Adjourn Dates [70]. On October 30, 2017, Flint Community Schools filed a Notice of Joinder in Motion to Adjourn Dates [71]. Plaintiffs filed a Response [72] to Defendants' motions on October 30, 2017. On October 31, 2017, Defendant Michigan Department of Education filed a Notice of Joinder/Concurrence in Motion to Adjourn Dates [73]. Defendant Michigan Department of Education filed a Reply [74] on November 1, 2017.

         For the reasons stated below, the Court DENIES Defendants' motions for stay of proceedings. The Court also DENIES Defendants' motion to adjourn.

         Background

         Plaintiffs are school-age children who are at risk of developing disabilities as a result of elevated levels of lead in the drinking water in Flint, Michigan. Plaintiffs bring claims of systemic violations of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) against all Defendants.

         On September 29, 2017, the Court entered an Order [48], which, among other things, denied Defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to exhaust administrative remedies under the IDEA. On October 2, 2017, the Court held a Status Conference. Following discussions at the Status Conference, the Court scheduled a hearing for December 4, 2017 on Plaintiffs' Motion for Preliminary Injunction [62].

         On October 16, 2017, all Defendants filed Notices of Appeal of the Court's Order [48]. [Dkt. #55, 57, 59]. Defendants seek to appeal the Court's ruling that excuses Plaintiffs' failure to exhaust because they have alleged systemic violations of the IDEA.[1]

         Defendants submit that the Court's Order [48] denying Defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to exhaust under the IDEA is immediately appealable because it constitutes a final order under the collateral-order doctrine. Defendants further submit that because filing a notice of appeal divests the district court of jurisdiction, the Court must stay the proceedings pending appeal. Alternatively, should this Court find that it has jurisdiction, Defendants argue that the Court should, in its discretion, grant Defendants' motions for stay or adjourn the hearing scheduled for December 4, 2017.

         Plaintiffs maintain that the Court's Order [48] denying Defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to exhaust under the IDEA is not a final order and is therefore non-appealable. Plaintiffs further maintain that the Court need not stay the proceedings because the filing of a notice of appeal of a non-appealable order does not divest the district court of jurisdiction. Additionally, Plaintiffs argue that the Court should find that neither a stay nor an adjournment of the hearing is warranted.

         Analysis

         The Sixth Circuit has jurisdiction over final decisions of the district courts. 28 U.S.C. § 1291. Generally, the filing of a notice of appeal divests the district court of jurisdiction of aspects of the case involved in the appeal. Griggs v. Provident Consumers Discount Co., 459 U.S. 56, 58 (1982). However, “. . . the district court retains jurisdiction over an action when . . . an appeal [is] from a non-appealable non-final order . . . .” Lewis v. Alexander, 987 F.2d 392, 394-95 (6th Cir. 1993). The purpose of this rule is to prevent litigants from “. . . temporarily depriv[ing] the court of jurisdiction at any and every critical juncture merely by filing a notice of appeal from any non-appealable order entered in district court.” Cochran v. Birkel, 651 F.2d 1219, 1222 (6th Cir. 1981) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         Pursuant to the collateral-order doctrine, courts of appeals have jurisdiction over a small class of non-final orders. See Will v. Hallock, 546 U.S. 345, 345-46 (2006) (noting that the “small class” includes orders rejecting absolute, qualified, or Eleventh Amendment immunity). To fall within the doctrine, the order must: “(1) conclusively determine the disputed question [;] (2) resolve an important issue completely separate from the merits [;] and (3) be effectively unreviewable on appeal from a final judgment.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). The party seeking invocation of the doctrine bears the burden of demonstrating that all three prongs are satisfied. See Swanson v. DeSantis, 606 F.3d 829, 833 (6th Cir. 2010). “The justification for immediate appeal must therefore be sufficiently strong to overcome the usual benefits of deferring appeal until litigation concludes.” Mohawk Industries, Inc. v. Carpenter, 558 U.S. 100, 107 (2009).

         Thus, Defendants' application for appeal does not automatically stay the proceedings in this Court. See 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b) (emphasis added). Nonetheless, a district court may, in its discretion, grant a stay upon consideration of four factors:

(1) [T]he likelihood that the party seeking the stay will prevail on the merits of the appeal; (2) the likelihood that the moving party will be irreparably harmed absent a stay; (3) the prospect that others will be harmed if the court grants ...

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