United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division
NEWBERN MAGISTRATE JUDGE
WILLIAM L. CAMPBELL, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 13), filed
by Defendant Sumner County Schools. Plaintiffs filed a
response (Doc. No. 16) to the Motion, and Defendant filed a
reply (Doc. No. 17). For the reasons set forth below, the
Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 13) is GRANTED,
and this action is DISMISSED.
Factual and Procedural Background
initiated this action by filing a “Petition for
Accelerated Interlocutory Recusal Appeal” (Doc. No. 1).
According to the Petition, Plaintiffs filed an
“administrative Due Process Complaint exerting their
special education legal rights against Sumner County Board of
Education” on April 24, 2018. (Id., at 3). The
complaint was initially handled by Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) Elizabeth D. Cambron, but was reassigned
to ALJ Thomas G. Stovall three weeks before trial was to
begin. Plaintiffs allege they requested ALJ Stovall's
recusal based on positions held by ALJ Stovall's wife and
daughter, and because he received training from the former
counsel for Defendant. ALJ Stovall denied the request for
the Petition, Plaintiffs request the Court reverse ALJ
Stovall's order denying their motion for
disqualification, and require the Tennessee Department of
State to replace ALJ Stovall with another judge. Through the
pending motion, Defendant argues this case should be
dismissed because the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction
and because Plaintiffs have failed to state a claim.
The Standards Governing Motions to Dismiss
considering a motion to dismiss, a court must determine
whether the plaintiff has sufficiently alleged “a claim
to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct.
1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). A claim has facial plausibility
when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the
court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is
liable for the misconduct alleged. Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d
868 (2009). Well-pleaded factual allegations are accepted as
true and are construed in the light most favorable to the
nonmoving party. 129 U.S. at 1950; Mills v. Barnard,
869 F.3d 473, 479 (6th Cir. 2017).
Subject Matter Jurisdiction
argues the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to
consider an interlocutory appeal from ALJ Stovall's
order. Plaintiffs argue the Court has federal question
jurisdiction as a reviewing court under the Individuals with
Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”).
IDEA requires states to establish procedures “to ensure
children with disabilities and their parents are guaranteed
procedural safeguards with respect to the provision of a free
appropriate public education.” 20 U.S.C. §
1415(a). After an aggrieved party has exhausted the
state's administrative procedures under the Act, he may
bring a civil suit in federal district court to enforce his
IDEA rights. 20 U.S.C. § 1415(i)(2), (1).
“Properly following the administrative process allows
issues to be thoroughly vetted, and hopefully resolved,
without court intervention.” Doe ex rel. Doe v.
Dublin City Sch. Dist., 453 Fed.Appx. 606, 608-09 (6th
Cir. 2011). The courts have recognized an exception to the
exhaustion requirement, however, if exhaustion would be
futile or inadequate to protect the plaintiff's rights.
Id. Plaintiffs argue this case falls within this
futility exception to the IDEA's exhaustion requirement.
Plaintiffs contend they are without an adequate remedy
through the administrative process because ALJ Stovall is not
likely to overrule his prior decision and recuse himself from
have not cited any authority, however, applying the futility
exception to permit judicial review of a pre-hearing,
interlocutory order rendered in a state IDEA administrative
proceeding. See, e.g., MM v. Lafayette School Dist.,681 F.3d 1082, 1090 (9th Cir. 2012) (holding the
IDEA “does not allow immediate judicial review of
pre-hearing rulings and decisions made by an ALJ in an IDEA
case. Rather, a party may bring suit if he is aggrieved by
the findings and decision made by the ALJ following the
conclusion of the due process ...