The National Academy for IDEA Administrative Law Judges and Impartial Hearing Officers Established 2002

This event has concluded. The 2023 program details are below for reference.
Registration for the upcoming 2024 Academy will open in Spring 2024, location tbd.

Special Education Solutions, LLC is excited to announce that registration is now open for the 19th National Academy for IDEA Administrative Law Judges and Impartial Hearing Officers.

This program is exclusively for IDEA Administrative Law Judges, Impartial Hearing Officers, or individuals who have oversight of their state’s IDEA due process hearing system and the cadre of ALJs/IHOs. This conference is not for attorneys or advocates who represent parties before IDEA ALJs/IHOs.
Tuesday, July 11, 2023, through Friday, July 14, 2023
We will offer a one-day basics program on Tuesday, July 11, 2023, for any ALJ/IHO who is new to special education hearings or who would like to take a refresher course. The regular program will commence on Wednesday, July 12, 2023, and conclude by mid-day Friday, July 14, 2023.
The University of Washington School of Law [MAP]
The law school is situated on “The Ave” in the University District of Seattle, just north of downtown Seattle. It is within easy access to restaurants, shops, and boutiques. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is 30 minutes away.
Main Program (Wed. – Fri.) $1450
Basics Program Add-on (Tues.) $200 ($1650 total)
Fees include continental breakfast and lunch per day, except for Friday lunch.

There is a team rate for States who send 6+ attendees. The Regular Program is discounted to $1200 per person ($1400 with Basics Program add-on). To receive the team rate, the team administrator must register the number of individuals who comprise the team and must also make payment. Once payment is received, the team administrator will be notified to direct team attendees to individually register on the Registration Page and select “Team Attendee” under Payment Method.

Payment must accompany registration. Payment can be made by credit card (Visa, MC, Amex, Discover), or check written to Special Education Solutions, LLC. Attendee substitutions can be made at any time prior to June 23, 2023, with no additional cost. (Substitutes must either be an ALJ, IHO, or due process coordinator / supervisor.) Any cancellations must be made in writing to by April 30, 2023. Cancellations received by this date will receive a refund minus an administrative fee of $150. There are no cancellations or refunds after the cancellation date.


At the 19th National Academy for IDEA Administrative Law Judges and Impartial Hearing Officers, you’ll experience a high-quality program that will allow for ample opportunities to engage with nationally recognized speakers on topics that matter to your day-to-day work. You’ll also have opportunities to collaborate with colleagues from around the country who have a wealth of experience and varying perspectives.

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

8:15 a.m. – 9:00 a.m. Continental Breakfast and Sign-in
9:00 a.m. – 9:15 a.m. Welcome, Introductions, and Announcements – Deusdedi Merced, Esq., Managing Member, Special Education Solutions, LLC
9:15 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. Overview of Special Education Process – Deusdedi Merced, Esq.

The IDEA’s framework is complex. In this session, Mr. Merced will provide a summary overview of the IDEA’s various component parts to enable new IDEA ALJs/IHOs to see the forest for the trees and how due process fits into the larger picture.

10:30 a.m. – 10:45 a.m. Break
10:45 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Basic Hearing Procedures and Management: An Overview for New IDEA Administrative Law Judges and Impartial Hearing Officers – Deusdedi Merced, Esq.

This nuts and bolts session introduces new IDEA ALJs/IHOs to the major IDEA federal statutory and regulatory requirements, including the various timelines and the hearing rights of the parties.

12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. Lunch
1:30 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Basic Hearing Procedures (cont.)
3:00 p.m. – 3:15 p.m. Break
3:15 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. Major IDEA Case Law – Judge Annie Lockwood (retired), Texas State Office of Administrative Hearings

This session will cover the major case law from the U.S. Supreme Court and other federal courts that should be applied by ALJs/IHOs when determining the legal issues in a due process hearing, including those involving: child find, FAPE, LRE/ placement, related services, reimbursement, compensatory services, stay put, statute of limitations, burden of proof, and other IDEA issues.

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

8:15 a.m. – 9:00 a.m. Continental Breakfast and Sign-in
9:00 a.m. – 9:15 a.m. Welcome, Introductions, and Announcements – Deusdedi Merced, Esq., Managing Member, Special Education Solutions, LLC
9:15 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. Collaborating with the SEA – Dr. Melanie J. Reese, The Center for Appropriate Dispute Resolution in Special Education (CADRE)

Under the IDEA, each State Education Agency (SEA) must effectively and efficiently administer a due process hearing system by having written procedures that align with IDEA; overseeing an infrastructure to support the case management, data collection, federal reporting requirements, the hearing of due process complaints, and the enforcement of decisions; and maintaining a list of trained and impartial hearing officers that align practices and decisions with federal and State law. The SEA’s collaboration with the independent hearing officers/administrative law judges to allow for proper oversight is critical to ensure an IDEA compliant system. This session will examine the due process complaint and hearing system from the SEA perspective, and identify critical points of coordination necessary for IDEA compliant systems.

10:30 a.m. – 10:45 a.m. Break
10:45 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Why IDEA Hearings are Different – Judge James R. Mortensen, Minnesota Office of Administrative Hearings

Many administrative law judges hear IDEA cases and other kinds of contested administrative law cases. This will be a discussion on some of the unique challenges IDEA hearings present to judges, and different ways to handle them. Participants will be invited to share their experiences and ideas with the group. Judge Mortensen will facilitate the discussion, based on his experiences, with an outline of some of the ways IDEA prehearing and hearing matters may be handled differently from other kinds of hearings in order to ensure an efficient and fair process, and to enable the judge to craft an understandable decision.

12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. Lunch
1:30 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Clarity, Style, and Substance – Essential Elements of Persuasive Decision Writing – Frances Raskin, Esq., Appeals Officer, U.S. Department of Agriculture

Frances Raskin is a former journalist, civil litigator, and IDEA impartial hearing officer in Washington, D.C. This session will focus on techniques for writing persuasive decisions in less time without shortchanging your legal analysis. Ms. Raskin will review key steps in the pre-decisional process and discuss methods to ensure your decisions are accessible to your audience. She then will dig into the essential mechanics of decision writing and strategies for withstanding appellate review. The session will conclude with tips for drafting effective orders.

3:00 p.m. – 3:15 p.m. Break
3:15 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. Hear ye! Hear ye! The Panel is Now in Session – Deusdedi Merced, Esq.

You have questions not covered by the conference topics? A distinguished panel of IDEA national consultants, ALJs, and SEA folks will have answers. Mr. Merced will facilitate this open mic session where audience members can ask questions of the panel regarding anything due process.

Thursday, July 13, 2023

8:15 a.m. – 9:00 a.m. Continental Breakfast and Sign-in
9:00 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. Perceptions & Perspectives From the Bench: Identifying Implicit Bias and the Importance of Varied Viewpoints – Parris Taylor, Esq., Exceptionality Dispute Resolution Coordinator, Louisiana Department of Education

During the hearing process, the human brains of ALJs/IHOs regularly make decisions unconsciously and on auto-pilot—decisions about witness credibility, evidence reliability, what is the appropriate analysis, deductive reasoning, and contextual inference. ALJs/IHOs have a duty to be fair, impartial decision-makers who create a fair and complete record for the parties and reviewing courts. Personal biases and silo thinking can taint the proceedings, leave participants feeling unheard, and advance a narrative that IDEA adjudications are an unjust, one-sided process.
10:30 a.m. – 10:45 a.m. Break
10:45 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. The Complexities of IDEA Discipline and Expedited Due Process Hearings – Lenore Knudtson, Esq., Pingora Consulting

Cases involving discipline of students with disabilities are complex and fast. Disciplinary removals, counting days, changes of placement, manifestation determinations, and stay put placements all have specific meaning in the world of discipline. The time to learn about IDEA discipline and conducting expedited hearings is BEFORE, NOT DURING a hearing. We will cover the details of IDEA discipline, provide tools to assist ALJs/IHOs in understanding IDEA discipline, and explore any limits to their authority. Know how to proceed before proceeding!
12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. Lunch
1:30 p.m. – 2:45 p.m. Dismissals and Summary Dispositions Without a Hearing – Judges Steve Elliot and Jessica Witte, Texas State Office of Administrative Hearings

The presenters will discuss the impact, weight, and limitations of recent OSEP guidance on dismissals and summary dispositions. The presentation will cover dismissing cases prior to a hearing based upon subject matter jurisdiction, standing, and res judicata. The presenters will also discuss the use of summary judgement for disposition in IDEA cases.
2:45 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Break
3:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. Understanding Psycho-educational Evaluations – Dr. Sara Rich, Clinical Assistant Professor, Oklahoma State University

This session will provide opportunities for the attendees to learn the basics of understanding psycho-education evaluations, when and why different assessments are used, how scores should and should not be interpreted, and key components to look for when determining if an evaluation is comprehensive. The purpose of this session is to provide the ALJ/IHO a basis to understand offered testimony and to ask informed questions of the parties/witnesses to promote a complete record. The panel will include a nationally certified school psychologist and a distinguished panel of ALJs/IHOs.

Friday, July 14, 2023

8:15 a.m. – 9:00 a.m. Continental Breakfast and Sign-in
9:00 a.m. – 10:15 a.m. Party Status Issues in Due Process Hearings – Mark C. Weber, Esq., Vincent de Paul Professor of Law, DePaul College of Law

This session will take up who can or should be parties to due process hearings. With regard to respondents, questions arise about the propriety of naming the SEA, private schools, non-SEA state agencies such as departments of health or developmental disabilities, and coops and other intermediate units. With regard to claimants, there are issues about the status of non-custodial parents, parent substitutes, informal guardians, surrogate parents, and students themselves. The program will work though relevant federal regulations and statutory provisions and discuss major cases on the topic.
10:15 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. Break
10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Recent Case Law Developments – Mark C. Weber, Esq.

This session will cover leading cases from the last twelve months, concentrating on published decisions from the federal courts of appeals, but including some noteworthy lower court and unpublished appellate decisions. The discussion will include the likely impact of the outcome of the Supreme Court case Perez v. Sturgis School District relating to exhaustion of IDEA remedies.

12:00 p.m. Adjournment

Hotel Accommodations

A limited block of rooms is being held until April 8, 2023, or until all rooms are sold out at the following area hotel:

Residence Inn Seattle University District (0.4 miles from UW School of Law)
4501 12th Avenue N.E.
Seattle, WA 98105
(206) 322-8887

Group Rate: $309 per night, plus applicable state and local taxes

Other area hotels include (Group rate is not offered at these hotels):

The Graduate Seattle (0.3 miles from UW School of Law))
4507 Brooklyn Avenue N.E.
Seattle, WA 98105
(206) 634-2000

Silver Cloud Hotel (1 mile from UW School of Law)
5036 25th Avenue, N.E.
Seattle, WA 98105
(206) 526-5200

Watertown Hotel (0.4 miles from UW School of Law)
4242 Roosevelt Way, N.E.
Seattle, WA 98105
(206) 826-4242

University Inn (0.4 miles from UW School of Law)
4140 Roosevelt Way, N.E.
Seattle, WA 98105
(206) 632-5055

Things to Do In and Around Seattle

Events happening during and around the time of the conference in greater Seattle.

Events happening during the week of the conference in and around the University District.

Seattle in general.


If you have any additional questions, please call Deusdedi Merced at (203) 557-6050 or email him at

Anyone in need of a reasonable accommodation should call or email Deusdedi Merced with your accommodation request.