County Superior Court
Plaintiff Michael J. Polak, Esq.
Defendant Amy R. Tabor, Esq., Paul V. Sullivan, Eq.
D. Doe (Doe) and his Parents (collectively, Defendants) bring
this Motion to Modify or Suspend that portion of a Decision
which addressed Attorney's fees that the Court previously
had entered in this case. (Defs.' Mot. to Modify or
Suspend the Decision of 12/21/18 as it Pertains to
Attorney's Fees as Provided by the Order Entered on
3/15/18.) They contend that as the prevailing parties in this
litigation, brought pursuant to the Children with
Disabilities Act, G.L. 1956 § 16-24-1, they are entitled
to attorney's fees and costs under that statute.
Plaintiff Lincoln School District (District) and Defendant
Rhode Island Council on Elementary and Secondary Education
(Council) have objected to the motion. This Court exercises
jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to G.L. 1956
§§ 42-35-15, 16-39-4, and 42-92-3(b).
I Facts and Travel
Court included a detailed recitation of the facts in this
case in a Decision which was issued on December 21, 2018.
See Lincoln Sch. Dist. v. Rhode Island Council on
Elementary and Secondary Education and D. Doe by and through
his parents, C.A. No. PC-2018-0379 (filed Dec. 21,
2018). In that Decision, the Court upheld a ruling of the
Council, ordering the District to provide Doe-an eleven year
old boy who suffers from severe to profound hearing loss-with
special education services in the form of a teacher of the
deaf (TOD) for all hours of academic instruction at Doe's
private school. Id. at 1, 2. In doing so, the Court
also ordered the District to reimburse Doe's parents for
the costs that they previously had incurred in paying for a
TOD at the private school since the 2015-2016 school year.
Id. at 25.
their counterclaims, Defendants sought a preliminary
injunction to enforce the Council's decision and
requested attorney's fees. (Defs.' Answer and
Countercl.) The Court denied both counterclaims. Defendants
now ask the Court to modify or suspend its ruling as it
pertains to the denial of attorney's fees, contending
that § 16-24-1 is a remedial statute which should be
interpreted liberally to permit the recovery of
attorneys' fees. The District and the Council object to
Standard of Review
have labeled their motion as one to "Modify or
Suspend" the Court's ruling with respect to its
denial of attorney's fees under § 16-24-1.
Essentially, however, they are seeking the Court to
reconsider that portion of its previous Decision regarding
attorneys' fees. It is well settled that "[t]he
Superior Court Rules of Civil Procedure, similar to the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, do not provide for a motion
to reconsider." Sch. Comm. of City of Cranston v.
Bergin-Andrews, 984 A.2d 629, 649 (R.I. 2009). However,
the Court "applies a liberal interpretation of the rules
to 'look to substance, not labels[, ]' . . . [and
has] allowed 'motions to reconsider' to be treated as
motions to vacate under Rule 60(b) of the Superior Court
Rules of Civil Procedure." Id. (internal
'"[a] motion to vacate a judgment is left to the
sound discretion of the trial justice and such a ruling will
not be disturbed absent an abuse of discretion.'"
Santos v. D. Laikos, Inc., 139 A.3d 394, 398 (R.I.
2016) (quoting Turdo v. Main, 132 A.3d 670, 680
(R.I. 2016)). Superior Court Rules of Civil Procedure 60(b)
provides in pertinent part: "On motion and upon such
terms as are just, the court may relieve a party or a
party's legal representative from a final judgment,
order, or proceeding for the following reasons: . . . (6) Any
other reason justifying relief from the operation of the
judgment." Super. R. Civ. P. 60(b).
instant matter, the Court has exercised its discretion to
allow the parties to file briefs on this issue. See
Order, Mar. 15, 2018. Having carefully considered the
arguments of the parties, the Court herein renders its
Decision on the motion.
contend that as the prevailing parties in this appeal, they
are entitled to recover attorney's fees and costs under
§ 16-24-1. Specifically, they argue that § 16-24-1,
which is silent with respect to attorneys' fees, is a
remedial statute which must be construed liberally to allow
such fees and costs; otherwise, parents would be
out-of-pocket for attempting to vindicate the right of their
disabled child to receive a free and appropriate public
education (FAPE) under the statute. They further contend that
as the definition of FAPE under § 16-24-1 is almost
identical to that of the ...