The Supreme Court agreed Friday to consider an appeal by an autistic child and his parents, who want to sue over his school accommodations without hiring a lawyer.
The parents, Jeff and Sandee Winkelman, say they cannot afford a lawyer to argue their court case against the school district of Parma, Ohio, near Cleveland, over the education of their son, Jacob.
The federal appeals court in Cincinnati ruled that the Winkelmans, suing under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, had to find a lawyer to represent Jacob, although other federal courts have ruled differently in cases involving that law.
The Bush administration then urged the justices to take the case, saying that in adopting the measure, Congress clearly intended that parents be able to represent their children in such court proceedings.
The Winkelmans’ suit contested Parma’s plan to educate Jacob at a public school. They wanted the district to pay his yearly tuition of $56,000 at a private school that specializes in educating autistic children.
Whether Jacob should have private schooling at public expense is not before the justices, only the question of his parents’ right to go into federal court without a lawyer.
The justices also agreed Friday to hear the case of a sheriff’s deputy in Georgia who purposely bumped his car into a vehicle he was pursuing at high speed, causing an accident that left the suspect a quadriplegic.
The Sheriff’s Office of Coweta County, Ga., had asked the court to consider whether an officer violates a fleeing suspect’s constitutional rights by using deadly force to terminate a high-speed chase.
Two lower federal courts ruled against the deputy, finding that his action was out of proportion to the risk that the suspect had posed to other drivers and pedestrians.