English-learner suit tab so far: $1.3 mil  
Arizona Republic
Jul. 13, 2007

Some lawmakers say tax dollars well spent

Mary Jo Pitzl

Nearly $1.3 million in state tax dollars have been spent on the long-running lawsuit over teaching English to students struggling to learn the language, state records show.

Lawmakers differ on whether the legal tab is money well spent.

"Definitely not," said Rep. Steve Gallardo, assistant House minority leader and a Phoenix Democrat. "This is over $1 million that we could have appropriated to the schools."

But House Majority Leader Tom Boone disagreed.

"The money, in my opinion, is well spent, except for Lewis and Roca," said Boone, R-Peoria. "They've argued against us all along the way."

Payments to the law firm of Lewis and Roca are 32 percent of the legal bill to date.

Susan Segal, an assistant attorney general, disputed Boone's portrayal that the state's legal representative has been working against lawmakers in the case of Flores v. Arizona.

"We have opposed Tim Hogan on most things," Segal said, referring to the attorney who represents English-learner students.

Hogan, who represents the plaintiffs, works for the non-profit Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest and does not have to disclose his privately funded legal fees.

The longest-running state contract is with Lewis and Roca, hired in September 2001 and, to date, paid $490,917, state records show. That averages out to $7,013 a month. State Schools Superintendent Tom Horne hired his own attorney in August 2005. To date, the fees paid to the law firm of Burch & Cracchiolo and lead attorney Eric Bistrow have amounted to $411,512, or an average of $17,892 a month.

In January 2006, lawmakers chimed in with their own lawyers, hiring the firm of Cantelme & Brown. To date, the firm and its lead attorney, David Cantelme, has been paid $382,578, or $20,136 a month.

Much of the litigation in the case has been concentrated in the past two years, explaining some of comparatively heavy spending by the more-recently hired law firms.

Unaccounted for is the amount of money that's been invested by the Attorney General's office in the case, which was filed in 1992. The money is drawn from the state's risk-management fund, which covers legal liabilities.