A Big Law and an elite litigation firm went head-to-head before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit Thursday in a case over whether the Virginia Department of Education has been violating the rights of disabled students and their families for decades. But there was strong pushback from the institutions.

Although the state, being represented by McGuireWoods, is contending that the suit needs to be tossed because the families failed to exhaust their administrative remedies, Susman Godfrey partner William Merrill, who is representing the families, argued that the administrative process was flawed to the point it fit the futility exception in the law.