MS. M., individually and as parent and legal guardian of O.M., a minor, Plaintiff, Appellant,
FALMOUTH SCHOOL DEPARTMENT, Defendant, Appellee.
FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF
MAINE Hon. D. Brock Hornby, U.S. District Judge
Richard L. O'Meara and Murray, Plumb & Murray, on
brief for appellant.
R. Herlan and Drummond Woodsum & MacMahon, on brief for
Lynch, Stahl, and Barron, Circuit Judges.
case, Ms. M., acting on behalf of her daughter O.M., brought
suit against the Falmouth School Department
("Falmouth"), alleging that it failed to provide
O.M. with a "free appropriate public education"
("FAPE") as guaranteed by the Individuals with
Disabilities Education Act ("IDEA"), 20 U.S.C.
§ 1400 et seq. In an earlier decision, we held
that Falmouth did not deny O.M. a FAPE and did not breach the
terms of her individualized education program
("IEP"). M. v. Falmouth Sch.
Dep't, 847 F.3d 19, 29 (1st Cir.), cert.
denied, 583 U.S. (2017) ("Falmouth
I"). We found that O.M.'s IEP did not require
Falmouth to instruct O.M. using the Specialized Program
Individualizing Reading Excellence ("SPIRE") system
during her third-grade year and therefore reversed the
district court's contrary determination and vacated the
award of damages. Id.
our decision in Falmouth I, Ms. M. returned to the
district court and sought to amend her complaint, now
claiming O.M.'s IEP was inappropriately designed because
it did not include a structured reading program like the
SPIRE system. She had not included this claim in her
district court complaint. The district court denied her motion to
amend, concluding that our earlier decision "treated the
dispute as ended, and that is law of the case."
M. v. Falmouth Sch. Dep't, No.
2:15-CV-16-DBH, 2017 WL 2303960, at *2 (D. Me. May 25, 2017)
("Falmouth II"). Ms. M. filed a timely
appeal to this court. After careful consideration, we affirm.
we review a denial of a motion to amend a complaint for abuse
of discretion. Morales-Alejandro v.
Med. Card Sys., Inc., 486 F.3d 693, 698 (1st Cir.
2007). However, we review de novo whether a district
court properly applied the law of the case doctrine.
Negrón-Almeda v. Santiago,
579 F.3d 45, 50 (1st Cir. 2009). Under either standard, the
district court did not err in denying Ms. M's motion to
waived her inappropriate design claim. She did not include it
in her original complaint in the district court and she did
not raise it after Falmouth argued in the district court
that, assuming the IEP did not require Falmouth to provide
SPIRE instruction to O.M., there would be no ground for
concluding that Falmouth had denied O.M. a FAPE. It is well
settled in this area of law that "[c]laims not
articulated to the district court cannot be raised on appeal,
even if they had been pressed before the hearing
officer." Hampton Sch. Dist. v.
Dobrowolski, 976 F.2d 48, 53-54 (1st Cir. 1992). The
logic behind this rule "is at least two-fold: an
appellant cannot evade the scrutiny of the district court nor
can he surprise the court on appeal with a new claim in order
to create essentially a new trial." G.D.
v. Westmoreland Sch. Dist., 930 F.2d 942,
950 (1st Cir. 1991).
cannot avoid this rule by amending her complaint to respond
to the adverse decision she received from this court in
Falmouth I. We generally do not "allow
plaintiffs to pursue a case to judgment and then, if they
lose, to reopen the case by amending their complaint to take
account of the court's decision." James
v. Watt, 716 F.2d 71, 78 (1st Cir. 1983).
In our view, "[s]uch a practice would dramatically
undermine the ordinary rules governing the finality of
judicial decisions, and should not be sanctioned in the
absence of compelling circumstances." Id. Ms. M
advances no such compelling circumstances here. She could
have pursued an inappropriate design claim originally in the
district court, just as she had at the administrative
hearing. She chose not to do so and is now bound by her
argues that, before our decision in Falmouth I, she
was not "aggrieved" by the findings made as to the
design of O.M.'s IEP and therefore could not have pursued
her inappropriate design claim earlier. 20 U.S.C. §
1415(i)(2)(A). We disagree. Section 1415(i)(2)(A) provides
that "any party aggrieved by the findings and decision
made under this subsection, shall have the right to bring a
civil action with respect to the complaint presented
pursuant to this section . . . in a district court of
the United States." (emphasis added). Ms. M. was
aggrieved by the hearing officer's decision to reject all
of her claims for relief. She was thus entitled to bring suit
based on any theory included in her administrative complaint.
the district court properly denied Ms. M's motion to
amend under the law of the case doctrine. "The law of
the case doctrine precludes relitigation of the legal issues
presented in successive stages of a single case once those
issues have been decided." Cohenv.Brown Univ., 101 F.3d 155, 167 (1st Cir. 1996). The
doctrine "afford[s] courts the security of consistency
within a single case while at the same time avoiding the
wastefulness, delay, and overall wheel-spinning that attend
piecemeal consideration ...