A.F. through Christine B. v Espanola Public Schools

Christine obtained a mediated settlement of her Individuals with Disabilities education Act claims on behalf of A/\.F. with Schools. She then sued under other federal statues for money damages. The district court dismissed ruling Christine failed to exhaust administrate remedies. The panel, 2-1, affirmed. The majority held that under the plain language of 20 USC 1415(l), Christine was required to go through the administrative process of contested hearing and appeal before she could bring suit under the other federal statues cited in her complaint. It held that Christine abandoned any argument that 1415(l) did not apply or that further administrative action was futile and held that congressional policy choices in the Act are rational and cannot be set aside by the panel. The dissent argued that 1415(l) can be read to only require a party use the administrative process instead of go to hearing and appeal, this reading is consistent with the purpose of the Act and the addition of 1415(l) to allow claims under other federal acts and a mediated settlement is exhaustion for purposes of 1415(l).

Eizember v Trammell

Eizember sought habeas relief from his death sentence. The district court denied his petition. The panel, with one judge concurring and one dissenting in part, affirmed. Two judges agreed that the Oklahoma courts used the wrong legal standard to determine if a juror should be disqualified for inability to consider alternatives to a death sentence. One of these judges plus one who believed the correct standard had been applied rejected the challenge as to one juror holding that the argument about what standard had been used was forfeited and in any event even without the statutory deference to the trial judge, the record was equivocal on whether the juror as substantially impaired in her capacity to serve as a juror and rejected a challenge to a second juror as his responses demonstrated a willingness to consider all sentencing options thus there was no basis to reverse. The dissenting judge argued that the first juror was obviously committed to a death sentence in most circumstances and should have been dismissed. The panel held that while the state trial court gave incorrect instructions on a lesser included murder offense, there was no reversible error as the jury was also charged on felony murder at Eizember’s request and in any event the jury found Eizember intentionally killed the victim. The panel also held that because the jury was instructed on the available sentences of death, life with parole and life without parole, there was no due process violation.