A much-delayed lawsuit concerning the Hawaii public school system’s treatment of two autistic girls in the mid-1990’s is set to go to trial in October and could cost the state “millions of dollars” in damages for each of the girls, according to public records.
Long delays in the case are attributable to rulings by an octogenarian federal court judge, Manuel Real, whose erratic courtroom behavior and quixotic legal decisions have brought him repeated rebukes and reversals from his appellate court superiors.
The parents of the girls first filed the lawsuit in 2000, alleging that the state had denied the two sisters crucial special education services from 1994 to 1998. The children, identified only as Natalie and Michelle in the suit, were just two and three years old in 1994. They are now 19 and 20.
The suit was filed after an administrative hearings officer first determined that the claim had merit.
Services given the children by the Department of Education improved after 1998, but by that time their educational and social development had been permanently stunted, according to the suit.
Judge Real, 87, who was sitting in the Hawaii District Court as a visiting judge, first tossed out the lawsuit in 2005. That decision was reversed by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2008, which remanded the case back to Real with an order that the plaintiffs be allowed to re-draw their complaint.
Real, who is based in Los Angeles, dismissed the amended complaint in March 2009 and the plaintiffs appealed once again to the 9th Circuit.
Thursday, August 25, 2011
A Case in Hawaii
Jim Dooley writes at The Hawaii Reporter: