The Arkansas Supreme Court ruled 5-2 today that it would delay issuing an order ending the Lake View school case for six months. The opinion is on the jump.
Chief Justice Jim Hannah and Justice Jim Gunter dissented, continuing previous opposition to the court’s ongoing involvement in the case. (Justices Corbin, Glaze, Brown, Dickey and Special Justice Dalby, replacing Justice Imber, formed the majority.) Hannah wrote that the court didn’t have jurisdiction for the review of actions taken by the legislature that is contemplated in the majority’s order. Gunter said the majority of the court was acting as a “brooding super-legislature.”
By the legislature’s own admission, it will need the 2007 legislative session to complete work on compliance with the court’s order in Lake View. It’s unfortunate that the Supreme Court set itself up for this messy conclusion by not giving a lower court continuing jurisdiction over the case until action was completed. But the legislature has already proved once that it cannot be trusted to act constitutionally absent the need to comply with the court’s orders. The 2007 session may now proceed with the understanding that homework will be checked.
UPDATE: Comment from A.G. Mike Beebe:
“This decision, coming 24 hours before the Court’s self-imposed deadline for reissuing the mandate, is a disappointment. When it last ruled on this case in December of 2005, the Court neither ordered nor requested any further reports from the State, as Chief Justice Hannah noted in his dissenting opinion. After the completion of April’s special legislative session, the Court remained silent, expressing no concerns or dissatisfaction with the steps taken by the General Assembly. It is only after an eleventh-hour filing by a handful of districts that the Court has spoken. Without evidence in that filing of any failures in continued reform efforts by the State, the Court has nonetheless decided to defy its own previous procedures and keep this case open.”