Stock v. Massachusetts Hosp. School

CourtUnited States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
Citation394 Mass. 437,476 N.E.2d 210
Parties, 24 Ed. Law Rep. 446 Richard STOCK v. MASSACHUSETTS HOSPITAL SCHOOL et al. 1
Decision Date08 April 1985

Page 210

476 N.E.2d 210
394 Mass. 437, 24 Ed. Law Rep. 446
Richard STOCK
Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts,
Argued Dec. 3, 1984.
Decided April 8, 1985.

Richard F. Howard, Boston, for plaintiff.

Judith S. Yogman, Asst. Atty. Gen., for defendants.


LIACOS, Justice.

The plaintiff, Richard Stock, requests an award of attorney's fees for services rendered on appeal in Stock v. Massachusetts Hosp. School, 392 Mass. 205, 467 N.E.2d 448 (1984) (Stock I), and directions to the Superior Court to assess attorney's fees for other work performed by Stock's attorney in the course of the litigation of this case. Within ten days after the date of the [394 Mass. 438] rescript in Stock I, supra, Stock submitted to the full court this request for fees, characterizing his request as a petition for rehearing and complying with the procedures for such a petition. See Mass.R.A.P. 27, 365 Mass. 874 (1974). We have treated Stock's motion as a petition for rehearing. 2

Page 211

The facts underlying this controversy are set forth in Stock I; we restate here some of the factual and procedural background. The suit was originally brought by Joseph Stock on behalf of his handicapped child, Richard Stock. The complaint contained seven counts arising under the Assistance for Education of All Handicapped Children Act (EAHCA), 20 U.S.C. §§ 1400-1461 (1982); G.L. c. 71B; § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794 (1982); and the due process protections of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and of the Declaration of Rights of the Massachusetts Constitution. A judge of the Superior Court ordered the entry of summary judgment in favor of all the defendants and dismissed Stock's complaint, concluding that Stock had not met the "primary jurisdiction" requirement of exhaustion of administrative remedies. Stock appealed that judgment, and we allowed his motion for direct appellate review. After summary judgment, Stock's counsel requested an administrative hearing before the Bureau of Special Education Appeals (Bureau). [394 Mass. 439] The Bureau denied that request because Stock had already received a high school diploma and was therefore no longer a "[s]chool age child with special needs," as defined in G.L. c. 71B, § 1, as amended by St.1978, c. 552, § 18. Stock appealed that denial of an administrative hearing to the Superior Court in a separate action, Richard Stock v. Massachusetts Department of Education (Suffolk Superior Court No. 61786), which was stayed pending the outcome of Stock I.

In Stock I we held that the awarding of a high school diploma to Stock, thus terminating his eligibility for special education services, without formal, written notice to his parents of the graduation decision, of their right to involvement in that decision, and of their right to a hearing and administrative review violated State and Federal statutory law. Stock I, supra at 212, 467 N.E.2d 448. Furthermore, exhaustion of the administrative process was not required because the record revealed that it would have proved futile. Id. at 213, 467 N.E.2d 448. Because statutory violations formed the premise for our decision, we did not reach Stock's constitutional claims.

Stock now argues that he is entitled to attorney's fees (1) as a prevailing party in an action brought to enforce a provision of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (1982), (2)3 as an equitable matter because of the defendants' bad faith, (3) as a "private attorney general," and (4) as a party against whom frivolous defenses have been asserted, pursuant to G.L. c. 231, § 6F. We hold that Stock is entitled to attorney's fees pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1988 (1982) and, hence, do not consider his other claims.

The issue of entitlement to fees in special education cases has been addressed recently in Smith v. Robinson, 468 U.S. 992, 104 S.Ct. 3457, 82 L.Ed.2d 746 (1984), though the parties disagree as to the effect of that decision on the instant case. In Smith, supra, the Court considered the extensive administrative process established in [394 Mass. 440] EAHCA to protect the rights of handicapped

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children 4 and found that EAHCA would be rendered ineffective if a plaintiff could...

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3 cases
  • Athol Memorial Hosp. v. Commissioner
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • August 6, 2002
    ...the central issue of this litigation. They rely on Stock v. Massachusetts Hosp. Sch., 392 Mass. 205, 213, 467 N.E.2d 448 (1984), S.C., 394 Mass. 437, 439, 476 N.E.2d 210 (1985), and Ciszewski v. Industrial Acc. Bd., 367 Mass. 135, 141, 325 N.E.2d 270 (1975). Those cases are distinguishable.......
  • Guardianship of Hurley
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts
    • April 16, 1985
    ...cert. denied sub nom. Draper v. Prescott, 456 U.S. 947, 102 S.Ct. 2016, 72 L.Ed.2d 471 (1982). See Stock v. Massachusetts Hosp. School, 394 Mass. 437, 476 N.E.2d 210 (1985). The Probate Court dismissed the transferred case as moot. To the extent the court's action concerned the prayer for d......
  • Rafferty v. Commissioner of Public Welfare
    • United States
    • Appeals Court of Massachusetts
    • October 30, 1985
    ...42 U.S.C. § 1988 (1982). He now has no basis for contending that he is a "prevailing party." Compare Stock v. Massachusetts Hosp. Sch., 394 Mass. 437, 441-442, 476 N.E.2d 210 (1985), and cases cited; Guardianship of Hurley, 394 Mass. 554, 558-561, 476 N.E.2d 941 5. It is not clear that Raff......

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