Arizona school funding back in court
Associated Press
Sept. 23, 2005

A top elected state official and a leading public interest lawyer are trading harsh words as a federal judge prepares to decide whether to impose sanctions on the state for failing to comply with a court order on a school funding issue.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne told U.S. District Judge Raner Collins that the judge shouldn't consider attorney Tim Hogan's request for sanctions because Hogan "hypocritically" argued that Collins shouldn't consider good faith efforts made by the state to comply with court orders.

Those orders required the state to improve instruction of students learning the English language. Hogan, on behalf of the class-action plaintiffs, has requested that Collins suspend the state's federal highway funding to prod the state into compliance.

Hogan last spring lobbied unsuccessfully against legislation passed by the Republican-led Legislature to tackle the issue and then successfully urged Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano to veto the bill, said Horne, a Republican.

Now, Horne complained, Hogan acted in bad faith by urging the court to not consider the GOP-backed legislation as part of the state's compliance efforts.

Violating a legal doctrine that requires that a person have "clean hands" when going to court, Hogan on behalf of his clients "assisted in creating the very situation for which they seek Draconian sanctions," Horne said.

Hogan responded to Horne's filing by saying it shouldn't even be considered because Horne and other state officials had their say when they filed an earlier objection to his sanctions request.

Horne's new filing ignores that it was the state's responsibility to comply with the court orders but also makes an "baseless and unprofessional accusation" about Hogan's representation of his clients, Hogan said.

"If this court were to adopt the superintendent's argument, then theoretically the state would be excused from complying with federal law simply because the plaintiffs exercised their constitutional right to lobby their elected officials," Hogan wrote. "The defendants can cite no law that supports such a bizarre conclusion."

A different federal judge originally ruled in 2000 that the state's programs for English-learning students don't satisfy a federal law guaranteeing equal opportunities in Arizona. Collins, who later took over the case, more recently had ordered lawmakers to satisfy the other judge's earlier order by acting by the end of their 2005 regular session.

After she vetoed the Republicans' bill, Napolitano proposed her own plan, which is much more expensive than the Republican version. Since then, she has suggested that a special session of the Legislature might be needed to address the issue.

Collins has scheduled an Oct. 31 hearing in Tucson to hear the sanctions request and related issues.