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Rio Rancho Public Schools Board of Education v. New Mexico Public Education Department

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

September 28, 2018

RIO RANCHO PUBLIC SCHOOLS BOARD OF EDUCATION, Petitioner,
v.
NEW MEXICO PUBLIC EDUCATION DEPARTMENT, Respondent.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING IN PART PETITIONER'S EMERGENCY MOTION FOR STAY

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court upon Petitioner's Emergency Motion for Stay Pending Appeal, filed September 27, 2018 (Doc. 3). A hearing was held on the emergency motion on September 28, 2018. For the reasons stated on the record at the hearing and herein, the Court finds that Petitioner's Motion is well-taken and, therefore, is GRANTED IN PART.

         BACKGROUND

         Petitioner, Rio Rancho Public Schools Board of Education, appeals the New Mexico Public Education Department's decision mandating that Petitioner divert 15% of its federal special education money into early intervening services. Respondent concluded that the percentage of African Americans in special education services was “Significantly Disproportionate” to the students from the percentage of students from other races, apparently pursuant to 20 U.S.C. § 1418(d) and 34 CFR § 300.646.

         Petitioner received Respondent's final decision on September 18, 2018, providing that its “determination of Significant Disproportionality… was issued in accordance with federal law.” Ex. 2. Petitioner filed an appeal of that ruling, and emergency motion for stay, on September 20, 2018, in the First Judicial District Court, County of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

         This matter was removed on September 26, 2018, and the emergency motion was refiled on September 27, 2018. In the emergency motion, Petitioner seeks a stay or injunction of the Respondent's decision requiring them to transfer 15% of the special education budget to early intervention programs, effectively maintaining the status quo.

         The Emergency Motion was apparently set for hearing in state court on October 1, 2018. That hearing was canceled after the case was removed. Petitioner subsequently refiled this Emergency Motion yesterday. Based on Petitioner's representation that the fund transfer had to occur by September 28, 2018 and could not be reversed, the Court held a hearing on the emergency motion on short notice on September 28, 2018. Respondent therefore did not have time to file a response.

         After hearing from both sides, and based on the record before the Court, the Court ruled that Petitioner had satisfied the preliminary injunction standards pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 65. The Court concluded that an injunction should be entered for a limited duration in order to maintain the status quo, at least until subject matter jurisdiction was decided or the Emergency Motion was fully briefed and heard at an evidentiary hearing.

         DISCUSSION

         Initially, the Court notes that Petitioner sought a stay, either as a stay of appeal under Fed.R.Civ.P. 62(d), or as a stay under New Mexico Rules 1.074(Q). The Court concludes that the appropriate procedural method is a preliminary injunction under Fed.R.Civ.P. 65. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 81(c) (federal rules of civil procedure apply in removed action). In any event, the federal preliminary injunction standard appears to be substantially similar to the New Mexico stay standard under NMRA 1.074(Q).

         To obtain a preliminary injunction under Fed.R.Civ.P. 65, the moving party must demonstrate: (1) a likelihood of success on the merits; (2) a likelihood that the movant will suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief; (3) that the balance of equities tips in the movant's favor; and (4) that the injunction is in the public interest. Attorney Gen. of Okla. V. Tyson Foods, Inc., 565 F.3d 769, 776 (10th Cir. 2009) (quotation omitted).

         The main purpose of a preliminary injunction is simply to preserve the status quo pending the outcome of the case. Penn v. San Juan Hospital, Inc., 528 F.2d 1181, 1185 (10th Cir. 1975). In issuing a preliminary injunction, a court is primarily attempting to preserve the power to render a meaningful decision on the merits. Compact Van Equipment Co. v. Leggett & Platt, Inc., 566 F.2d 952, 954 (5th Cir. 1978).

         Based on the record before the Court at this time, the Court concludes that Petitioner has satisfied the preliminary injunction standards.

         A. Succe ...


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