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School Law Institute (15th Annual)

Author(s): Deusdedi Merced, Jesse Cole Cutler
Practice Area: Family Law, Pro Bono
Published: Jun 2015
PLI Item #: 57313
CHB Spine #: F264

Jesse Cole Cutler’s practice focuses on advocating, mediating and litigating on behalf of children with special education needs. He has significant experience litigating every aspect of administrative hearings under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Jesse also has extensive appellate experience in federal appellate courts. He currently supervises and manages the litigation and resolution of tuition reimbursement claims and heads his firm’s appellate division.

Jesse is a member of the American Bar Association; the New York State Bar Association; the Association of The Bar Of The City Of New York; the American Trial Lawyers Association; the Education Law Association; the Council of Parents Attorneys and Advocates, and the Federal Bar Council.

Jesse received his JD from Brooklyn Law School and graduated cum laude from the University of Albany, SUNY. 

Jesse regularly lectures on special education policies, procedures and litigation strategies to parent and attorney groups.  He has published decisions on the federal and state level.

Jesse lives in Brooklyn Heights with his wife, an editor and author of children’s books, and his two sons.

Attorney Deusdedi Merced has 20 years of experience in special education and other-related litigation. Early in his career, Mr. Merced represented the New York City Department of Education in federal and state courts and administrative hearings.  He then opened a five-attorney law firm and represented parents of children with disabilities in hundreds of IDEA due process hearings.

Mr. Merced currently is an independent consultant whose clients include state education agencies, including the New York and Illinois state departments of education.  Mr. Merced provides training for more than 100 hearing officers in several states. Mr. Merced consults on legal issues, assisting state education agencies in drafting revisions to state laws, regulations, policies, and procedures to enhance the fairness, impartiality, and independence of special education hearing processes.  Mr. Merced also serves as a State review officer in Nevada.

From 2010-2013, Mr. Merced served as the Chief Hearing Officer for the District of Columbia impartial, special-education hearing system. Mr. Merced’s accomplishments in his role as Chief Hearing Officer include achieving a thirty-percent reduction in IDEA complaints filed as a result of improvements in hearing officer performance.

As Chief Hearing Officer, Mr. Merced monitored and supervised the process to ensure that the parties received timely, fair due process hearings and timely, high quality decisions.  Mr. Merced worked to improve the performance of the independent hearing officers by providing regular training, observing prehearing conferences and due process hearings, reviewing decisions and administrative records, and providing feedback on performance.  Mr. Merced performed annual evaluations of each hearing officer consistent with performance criteria and standards. Mr. Merced also served as the primary IDEA mediator, settling 95 percent of the cases he mediated.

From 2008-2010, Mr. Merced served as an impartial hearing officer for the District of Columbia. None of the more than 200 cases over which Mr. Merced presided were appealed, which is a testament to his knowledge of special education law and his skill as an adjudicator.

As a result of his broad experience in special education litigation, training, and oversight, Mr. Merced has a deep appreciation for the unique perspectives of school districts, parents, and hearing officers. Mr. Merced has first-hand knowledge of the challenges hearing officers face in presiding over due process hearings. His extensive knowledge and experience have made Mr. Merced a sought-after speaker at nationally recognized conferences on special education. He has been a featured speaker at LRP’s National Institute on Legal Issues of Educating Individuals with Disabilities, LRP’s School Attorneys Conference, as well the Academy for IDEA Administrative Law Judges and Hearing Officers at Duke Law School and Seattle University School of Law.