The long-standing "American Rule" precludes courts from awarding attorneys' fees absent statutory authorization. Courts are also restrained by the Supreme Court's determination that in order to "prevail" under a statute permitting a fee award, a party must obtain some measure of judicially sanctioned relief. This Comment examines the various distinctions that courts have made between judicial and non-judicial relief, and argues that in the context of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA"), the distinction between privately settling plaintiffs and those obtaining court-ordered relief lacks legitimacy. The IDEA was drafted with the purpose of ensuring appropriate educational placement for special-needs children as well as ensuring that disputes regarding such placement be settled promptly and free of unnecessary disruption. Using Doe v. Boston Public Schools as an analytical backdrop, this Comment argues that the IDEA's purpose, which is amply reflected in the text and legislative history of the statute, demonstrates that privately settling IDEA plaintiffs should be entitled to recoup their attorneys' fees.
Michael G. Congiu,
An End to Empty Distinctions: Fee Shifting, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and Doe v. Boston Public Schools,
Chi.-Kent L. Rev.
Available at: https://scholarship.kentlaw.iit.edu/cklawreview/vol80/iss2/14