U.S. President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court Pick, Neil Gorsuch, has been credited with making up a legal standard that, if implemented, could severely undermine services in place for students with disabilities across America.
In January, lawyer Neal Katyal was tasked with explaining who came up with the legal standard “merely more than de minimis” before the Supreme Court justices. If upheld, the standard could very well reduce education benefits promised to students with disabilities under the federal legislation Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
At the time, Justice Samuel Alito asked, “what’s the origin of this phrase, ‘More than de minimis’? Who thought this up?” The term “de minimis” is generally understood as being so small as to be legally insignificant.
However, despite being pressed by the justices, the appellate attorney did not have a sufficient answer, as he simply stated that the standard had been developed over time by lower courts. The correct answer, however, was simple: Neil Gorsuch.
Gorsuch used “merely more than de minimis” in a 2008 ruling. However, it has become an issue or a case that Supreme Court justices heard in January — Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District.
Advocates for students with disabilities are paying close attention to the case, as it calls into question individualized education plans for kids under the IDEA for the first time in 30 years.
The Obama administration addressed the standard last year to the Supreme Court in a brief, saying that it “has the effect of depriving children with disabilities of the benefits Congress has granted them by law.” The brief urged both a review of the standard, but also a rejection of it in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District.
The Supreme Court is expected to hand down a decision in the case by June.