Thursday, February 7, 2008

Let the Reader Beware!

You have to be careful when you read things about the law. Today I perused some websites pertaining to Section 504 and students with ADHD. On the site of one nationally recognized organization, I found a quote attributed to the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights. I was surprised at the quote, because it did not comport with my understanding of OCR's position on the issue. So I checked out the citation given on the website, and found that the quote was actually taken from a special education hearing officer's decision in New Jersey in 1997.

We lawyers need to be careful when we teach or write about the law. What a hearing officer in New Jersey said 11 years ago in an obscure special education due process hearing may be interesting, but it is hardly authoritative. No way should it be mistaken for an official pronouncement from the Department of Education.

Be careful when you listen to us lawyers, or read what we write! There is a hierarchy of legal authority. Not all cases are of equal value. Pay particular attention to rulings from the Supreme Court, our 5th Circuit, the Texas Supreme Court and the federal district courts of Texas.

Pay attention to how recent the ruling is. A lot has changed since 1997 with regard to Section 504.

Enough for today. Just had to get that off my chest and into the blogosphere.