NYT on Winkelman
The justices were attentive to both sides’ arguments. While several justices tipped their hands, it was difficult to read the court as a whole. Justice Stephen G. Breyer said Mr. Bergeron would have an “uphill battle” to persuade him that despite the statute’s numerous references to parents, the phrase “party aggrieved” should be interpreted as applying only to children and not to parents.
And Justice David H. Souter told Mr. Bergeron that the statutory right to a “free appropriate public education” appeared to be “a right of the family group, the parents and the child together, rather than the right of the child alone.”
On the other hand, Justice Antonin Scalia told Mr. André, the Winkelmans’ lawyer, that lawyers “protect the court from frivolous suits.” When suits are brought without lawyers, “we make a lot more work for federal district judges,” he added.
Mr. André’s response that “a capable district judge can look at the case and decide whether the school should have complied with the statutory mandate” did not satisfy Justice Scalia.
“And do it right after reading pro se prisoner petitions, right?” the justice said, using the legal term for a case filed without a lawyer. “You’d have a nice evening’s work,” he added.
“We think that pro se parents are quite different from pro se prisoners,” Mr. André replied.