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E.H. v. Mississippi Department of Education

United States District Court, Fifth Circuit

September 6, 2013

E.H., et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, Defendant.

ORDER

DANIEL P. JORDAN, III, District Judge.

This action under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is before the Court on the motion of Plaintiffs seeking conversion of Defendant's motion to dismiss to a motion for summary judgment and requesting discovery pursuant to Rule 56(d) [43]. The Court, having considered the memoranda and submissions of the parties, finds that Plaintiffs' motion should be denied.

I. Facts and Procedural History

In September 2010, Plaintiff E.H. filed an administrative complaint with the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) on behalf of himself and similarly situated students in the Jackson Public School District (JPS) alleging that JPS failed to provide Plaintiffs with a free and appropriate education as required by IDEA. MDE investigated the allegations and issued a report finding that JPS had violated IDEA and ordering JPS to implement certain remedial measures. After various corrective action plans and monitoring visits, JPS was still not in compliance, and, in May 2012, MDE ordered JPS to comply with IDEA by November 1, 2012, or lose its accreditation. That deadline was extended twice, eventually to February 28, 2014. As of June 30, 2013, JPS had not fully resolved the administrative complaint.

Plaintiffs filed a class action complaint [1] against MDE in this Court on July 10, 2012, alleging that MDE violated IDEA by failing to execute its supervisory and enforcement responsibilities over JPS. Plaintiffs subsequently filed an amended complaint [7], and MDE filed a motion to dismiss [40] the amended complaint under Rule 12(b)(1) and (b)(6). Plaintiffs now seek to covert Defendant's motion to dismiss to a motion for summary judgment and request discovery under Rule 56(d) [43]. The Court is prepared to rule on Plaintiffs' motion.

II. Standard

Ordinarily, a court decides a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim looking only at the face of the complaint. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). But according to the Fifth Circuit, "Rule 12(d) gives a district court complete discretion to determine whether or not to accept any material beyond the pleadings that is offered in conjunction with a Rule 12(b)(6) motion.'" Isquith ex rel. Isquith v. Middle S. Utils., Inc., 847 F.2d 186, 194 n.3 (5th Cir. 1988) (citing 5 C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure, ยง 1366 (1969); Ware v. Assoc. Milk Producers, Inc., 614 F.2d 413, 414-15 (5th Cir. 1980)). If "matters outside the pleadings are presented to and not excluded by the court, the motion shall be treated as one for summary judgment." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d); see In re Katrina Canal Breaches Litig., 495 F.3d 191, 205 (5th Cir. 2011).

That said, some documents outside the pleadings may be considered under Rule 12(b)(6). For example, documents attached to a motion to dismiss that are "referred to in the plaintiff's complaint and... central to her claim, " are considered part of the pleadings. Causey v. Sewell Cadillac-Chevrolet, Inc., 394 F.3d 285, 288 (5th Cir. 2004). A district court is also permitted to rely on matters of public record when ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion without converting it to a motion for summary judgment. Fin. Acquisition Partners LP v. Blackwell, 440 F.3d 278, 286 (5th Cir. 2006).

Review of a Rule 12(b)(1) motion for want of subject-matter jurisdiction is different. When deciding such motions, the Court may consider matters outside the pleadings. Ramming v. United States, 281 F.3d 158, 161 (5th Cir. 2001).

III. Analysis

The fundamental question is whether Plaintiffs are entitled to discovery, but there are two procedural paths to the answer. According to Plaintiffs, the motion should be viewed in light of Rule 12(b)(6) and converted to one for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 12(d) so they can request discovery under Rule 56(d). But that circuitous route is not the only way Plaintiffs could obtain discovery because discovery is allowed under Rule 12(b)(1). As explained more fully below, the Court concludes that Plaintiffs have not shown a need for the discovery they seek whether the motion is viewed under Rule 12(b)(1) or Rule 12(b)(6).

A. Exhibits Listed in Amended Complaint

Defendant attached 17 exhibits to its motion to dismiss, but the first nine-Exhibits A through I-are referenced in the Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint and are central to their claim. Plaintiffs do not seem to focus on these exhibits, and the Court agrees with Defendant that they may be properly considered whether the ...


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