A prehearing conference typically takes place a week or 10 days before a hearing.  Prehearing conferences are held on Mondays and Fridays.  The date and time of the prehearing conference is in the scheduling order.  OAH will tell the parties if the date and time of the prehearing conference changes.

The calendar and the name of the judge assigned to the case are posted on OAH’s website.  Use this link to access the calendar.

It is a good idea to check the calendar before the prehearing conference because the assigned judge might change from time to time.  Any peremptory challenge (use this link for more information on motions) to the judge must be made before the prehearing conference begins.  The calendar is located on OAH’s website at

https://www.dgs.ca.gov/OAH/Case-Types/Special-Education/Calendar

A judge will place a conference call with all the parties on the day and time of the prehearing conference.  It is a good idea for parties to call OAH 30 minutes before the scheduled prehearing conference and tell OAH the best number to reach them.  If parents are represented by an attorney, the judge will call the attorney.  If parents are not represented, the judge will call a parent directly.  It is very important to participate in the prehearing conference.  The judge has experience conducting prehearing conferences with parents and will ensure that everything that needs to be discussed will be covered.  The conference call is recorded to make an official record of the prehearing conference.  No other recording is allowed without the judge’s permission.

 

The judge will discuss and plan the due process hearing with the parties.  The discussion will include:

  • The date, time and location for the hearing;
  • The projected length of the hearing;
  • The issues presented in the request for due process;
  • The requirements for exhibit binders;
  • The witnesses who will testify at hearing and whether the district will be able to make district employees available to testify without subpoenas;
  • Whether any witness is unavailable or a party is requesting permission to have a witness testify by telephone;
  • Any motions that need to be considered such as a motion to change the dates of the hearing, to change the location of the hearing; to privately record the hearing; or to limit evidence;
  • Special education hearings are closed to the public unless a student’s parents want it to be opened to the public. During the prehearing conference, the judge will ask if the parents want an open or closed hearing. Hearings may be open as long as they are not disrupted. Judges will keep control over the hearing so that everyone is provided with due process of law.
  • Any need for interpreters or other accommodations for disabilities; and,
  • Instructions the parties should follow if the parties reach a settlement agreement between the time of the prehearing conference and the date of the hearing.

 

Preparation for the prehearing conference is the beginning of your preparation for hearing.  You should start preparing for the hearing as soon as you file your case.  Contact witnesses and gather all the documents needed as early as possible.  Parents should allow themselves enough time to meet the requirements for the prehearing conference.  The last day for you to identify your witnesses and the evidence you want to present at the hearing is shortly after the prehearing conference.  Completing the required preparations for the prehearing conference will help you prepare for the final evidence and witness disclosures that are required before the hearing begins.

Read the information sent with the Scheduling Order.  The information and the Scheduling Order were sent to all parties shortly after the case was filed. 

The information sent with the Scheduling Order contains important information about the prehearing conference.  The scheduling order has information about how to:

  • Reach someone who can answer questions;
  • Prepare for the prehearing conference;
  • Prepare witness and exhibit lists;
  • Prepare a prehearing conference statement; and,
  • How to change the date and time of the hearing, or prehearing conference.

The information sent with the Scheduling Order also explains the deadlines for filing the prehearing conference statement, witness and exhibit lists, and for exchanging copies of exhibits with other parties.

To make sure a witness will be at the hearing, parents may need to get a subpoena from OAH.  A subpoena is a legal way to require someone to appear at the hearing.  If someone has to miss work to attend the hearing, they may need a subpoena to show their boss they are required to attend the hearing. 

How to get a subpoena is described in the  Subpoenas section.  Parents may want to discuss subpoenas with the judge during the prehearing conference.

 

A “Prehearing Conference Statement” tells the judge and the other parties the basic information about the parties’ cases.   The statement will describe each of the issues that will be discussed during the prehearing conference.  Parents’ Prehearing Conference Statement must include all of the following information:

  1. An estimate of the number of days needed to complete the due process hearing;
  2. A simple explanation of the issues that are being heard in the hearing, and a way these issues might be handled. Only issues from the complaint may be included, because new issues may not be raised in prehearing conference statements;
  3. A list of witnesses parents want to call, and a description of what each witness will be talking about and how their testimony is related to the case;
  4. A list of the evidence parents want to use. These are often documents, such as the student’s IEP, copies of assessment reports, test results, or doctors’ reports. They may also be “demonstrative evidence,” such as a video of the student in a classroom setting or a photograph of the school. This list of evidence should describe both the documents and the demonstrative evidence. Each piece of evidence is called an “exhibit;” and,
  5. A request for an interpreter, or other special needs, if needed. 

All parties must file their Prehearing Conference Statements, witness lists and exhibit lists with OAH.  Do not send copies of your evidence to OAH.  You will bring those documents to the hearing.  These required prehearing conference documents must be filed on or before the date identified in the Scheduling Order, a date which is at least three business days before the prehearing conference.  Parents must also send copies of this information to all other parties with a proof of service.  The district and any other parties will also send their statement, exhibits, and list of witnesses to parents.  Parents should read these documents, so that they can talk about them with the judge during the prehearing conference.

The judge will prepare a written order after the prehearing conference.  The order will be sent to all parties.  The order will discuss the things discussed during the prehearing conference and any directions that must be followed.  The Order Following Prehearing Conference will repeat the specific directions about how parties must prepare the evidence they wish to submit at the hearing.

All parties must comply with the order.  There may be sanctions or penalties for failing to follow the prehearing conference order, including the possibility that evidence will not be allowed to be submitted or witnesses not being allowed to testify.  For example, if a party does not provide copies of their exhibits to the other parties at least five business days prior to the due process hearing, the judge might not allow those documents into evidence during the due process hearing.

When the Order Following Prehearing Conference is issued, parties that are registered in the Secure e-File Transfer (SFT) system  will get an email from OAH telling them that they have a new document in their file.