Just in case you missed it, on December 12 the Attorney General filed his opening brief in the Supreme Court in his challenge to the trial court’s dramatic ruling last fall in the long-running CCJEF v. Rell case, about which I’ve written previously.
The Connecticut Supreme Court issued its much-anticipated decision in Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding v. Rell “(CCJEF v. Rell”), which challenged the constitutional adequacy of Connecticut’s public education system. Chief Justice Chase Rogers, in what may be one of her final decisions before retiring next month, wrote the opinion for a divided court. She stated that Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher clearly violated separation of powers principles when he ruled, based on a novel constitutional standard that he created, that the state’s educational system was unconstitutional:
[W]e agree with the defendants that, having found that the educational resources provided by the state reasonably meet the minimal needs of the state’s students . . . the trial court should have concluded that the state’s educational system satisfies article eighth, § 1 [of the state constitution], and it should not have gone on to apply a constitutional standard of its own devising. By doing so, not only did the trial court fail to defer to the legislature, it also usurped the legislative responsibility to determine how additional funding, beyond the constitutionally required minimum, should be allocated and how to craft educational policies that, in its view, best balance the wide variety of interests at issue. This action was in clear violation of separation of powers principles.
Many legal observers, myself included, anticipated this decision and its separation of powers rationale.
Justices Richard Palmer, Richard Robinson and Appellate Court Judge Michael Sheldon, sitting by designation, issued a separate opinion which concurred in part and dissented in part from the majority decision. They agreed with much of the majority’s analysis, but thought that instead of directing the entry of judgment for the defendants, the case should have been remanded for a new trial.
I hope to write more about the twin decisions after reviewing them more closely.
The plaintiffs and defendants in the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding v. Rell appeal, now pending in the Connecticut Supreme Court, have submitted a proposed briefing schedule for the appeal. The schedule proposes that the parties complete all briefing by April 12, 2017.
Assuming that the Supreme Court approves the proposed schedule–and I believe it will–the Court will not hear oral argument until late April or May of 2017. That means an actual decision by the Court is unlikely until the fall of 2017 at the earliest.
In my opinion, the proposed briefing schedule is reasonable. This is a complex appeal with a voluminous record. A more expedited briefing schedule would not have been realistic.
Connecticut Supreme Court Chief Justice Chase T. Rogers has granted the Attorney General’s petition to appeal Judge Moukawsher’s recent bombshell ruling on the constitutional inadequacy of elementary and secondary school education in Connecticut. The Chief Justice also agreed to review issues the trial court decided against the plaintiffs. The Chief Justice did not set a date for oral argument, nor did she establish a briefing schedule. Stay tuned.
UPDATE (4:08 pm): The Supreme Court has issued an order granting the Attorney General’s request for a stay of the trial court’s ruling and order. Also, Justice McDonald is recused from the case.
As anticipated, Attorney General George Jepsen today filed a petition with the Chief Justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court seeking her permission to immediately appeal the recent trial court decision in the CCJEF v. Rell case. The decision holds that much of Connecticut’s elementary and secondary school funding and teacher evaluation policies are unconstitutional. Click here for CT News Junkie’s story.
Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher spent nearly 3 hours earlier this week reading from the bench his long-awaited decision in Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding v. Rell “(CCJEF v. Rell”). The decision is a scathing indictment of the way Connecticut defines and funds elementary and secondary school education, the way it funds special education, the way it hires, evaluates, pays and retains teachers, and the way it funds school construction. The opinion describes the way the General Assembly has addressed each of these issues as irrational. Not just weak, poor or bad policy. IRRATIONAL policy. So irrational as to be unconstitutional in the judge’s view. The judge ordered the General Assembly to provide rational solutions to these issues within 180 days, at which time he will decide whether the solutions meet his standard of rationality. If not, he will impose his own solutions.
After 11 years of litigation, Judge Thomas Moukawsher has issued his 254-page decision (including appendices) in Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding v. Rell. The decision is both a defeat and a victory for the plaintiffs.