“Adequate Funding” unrelated to available state funds? Colorado judge rules out relevant evidence

The Lobato v. Colorado school funding lawsuit concluded its fifth and final week in trial court in Denver last Friday – with plaintiffs seeking

billions of dollars of additional funding for schools, though it’s unclear where that extra money would come from. (Denver Post, “Colorado school funding trial enters likely final week“)

This educational-funding lawsuit (seeking to force even higher state educational spending by court order) represents yet another abuse of the courts for the pursuit of political ends – unfortunately aided and abetted by an all-too-complicit (and highly political) majority on the Colorado Supreme Court, which previously (October 2009) overturned two lower courts which had (correctly) dismissed the case (Lobato v. Colorado) as non-justiciable (meaning, a policy issue not to be decided by the courts).

Plaintiffs scored a major victory when Denver District Judge Sheila Rappaport ruled to exclude evidence on the state’s budget and fiscal situation, as well as evidence on relevant constitutional provisions including the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) and the Gallagher Amendment (restricting property tax collections).

According to an article in last weekend’s Pueblo Chieftain (“State’s pocketbook won’t figure in schools suit“),

Kathy Gebhardt, a lawyer for plaintiffs in Lobato v. the state of Colorado, told the education collective Colorado School Finance Project on Friday that exclusion of evidence related to the state’s budget condition was a key victory for her side in five-week trial that concluded last week.

Gebhardt said her legal team filed the motion “thinking that we probably had a 5 or 10 percent chance of winning on that, and we won, which pretty much I think gutted a big part of the state’s defense.”

In lawsuits challenging the adequacy of school funding in other states, plaintiffs rarely have sought similar rulings.

Although Judge Rappaport “does not expect to rule on the case for at least another month” the preliminary rulings do not bode well for the state, which “cannot afford to lose.”

A court ruling in favor of the plaintiffs could not only precipitate a constitutional crisis, but lead to a fiscal and budgetary train wreck of epic proportions.  Indeed, as Governor Hickenlooper correctly points out, the consequences for Colorado would be “devastating.

If the courts are able to decide “the future of public education” by judicial fiat, Colorado citizens will have lost all control and accountability over our schools.

The issue of educational funding is NOT one for the courts, but rather for the legislature and/or local school boards. The Lobato lawsuit is a fiscal, legal, and political disaster in the making.

Read more about the Lobato school funding case in these recent articles:

These cases highlight the importance of fair and impartial courts and of judges who exercise proper restraint (in accordance with the rule of law) in considering – let alone deciding – issues of policy more appropriate for the elected, representative branches of government.  Our courts have an important – even vital – role to play in our society and system of government.  This is not it.

Clear The Bench Colorado will, with your support, continue to promote transparency and accountability in the Colorado judiciary, informing the public to increase awareness of the substantial public policy implications of an unrestrained activism and political agendas in the courts.  We will continue to work to educate voters and provide information of relevance related to the judicial branch, and to provide useful and substantive evaluations of judicial performance.

However, we can’t do it alone –  we need your continued support; via your comments (Sound Off!) and, yes, your contributions.  Freedom isn’t free –nor is it always easy to be a Citizen, not a subject.

Ultimately, though – it’s worth the effort.

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