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Supreme Court hears arguments in autistic child legal representation case

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] heard oral arguments [transcript, PDF] Tuesday in Winkelman v. Parma City School District [Duke Law case backgrounder; merit briefs], 05-983 [docket], where the court must decide whether parents of an autistic child can represent their child in federal court in suits arising under the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA) [text, 20 USC §1400]. The Winkelmans argue that the act permits parents to represent their children without lawyers because of the tightly interwoven rights of the parent and child, and that without pro se representation, those who cannot afford lawyers cannot bring suit against school districts that refuse to accomodate their disabled children.

The US Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals [official website] ruled [decision, PDF] against the Winkelmans, holding that while parties are permitted to represent themselves in court, non-lawyers are not permitted to represent other parties pro se. The Sixth Circuit also held that parents are permitted to represent their disabled children in administrative proceedings, but that the IDEA does not extend that right to judicial proceedings. AP has more.

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