As in all areas of law decisions made by various courts, known collectively as case law, are very important in the field of special education. When a court decides a case it establishes precedent. Precedent simply means that any court lower than the decision-making court is obligated to decide cases with similar legal and factual questions in the same way.
Precedent provides consistency and allows attorneys and their clients to evaluate the merits of their case based on how courts have decided similar cases in the past. The United States Supreme Court is the highest court in the land, and as such its decisions are supreme. All other courts within the United States are bound to follow its decisions. Below the Supreme Court are the United States Courts of Appeals, and below the Courts of Appeals are the United States District Courts. Decisions from all of these courts, as well as from state courts and other administrative bodies, interpret and apply the requirements established in the IDEA, Section 504, and the ADA and form the basis on which future special education matters will be decided.
The following questions are listed in the margin on the right by topic: