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The U.S. Supreme Court's judgment in Smith v. Robinson (1984) stands out as noteworthy because it spurred Congress to amend the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EAHCA), now the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) substantively two years later. Under the legislative change, parents who successfully litigate their claims against their school boards can recover reasonable attorney fees.

Facts of the Case

Smith was the final chapter in a lengthy dispute between parents and school officials regarding the obligations of a school board under the IDEA. After the parents prevailed in their challenge in a federal trial court in Rhode Island, they requested that their school board reimburse them for attorney fees. The parents argued that they should have been able to recover those expenditures, because ...

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