June 10, 2004
Oh, no, you don't

Governor Rick Perry says he knows how the State Supreme Court justices are going to vote on a school finance reform lawsuit. One of those justices says oh, no, you don't.

If Gov. Rick Perry thinks he knows how the Texas Supreme Court will rule on a school finance lawsuit, he didn't pick up any insider information from court members, Justice Wallace Jefferson said Wednesday.

Jefferson, one of three Perry appointees on the high court, said he has never discussed school finance or any other issue with the governor. He said he doubted that any justice had, although people often try to guess how the court will rule on pending litigation.

"This court is independent, vigorously independent. We consider the facts and the law when they're presented," Jefferson said in an interview.

A lawsuit brought by a number of school districts, rich and poor alike, seeking to overturn the current school law is scheduled to go to trial Aug. 9 in state district court in Austin. Among other issues, the plaintiffs are seeking more state funding for public education.

A likely appeal of the district court's ruling will be decided by the nine-member Supreme Court, perhaps as early as next year.

Perry, in a private meeting in Dallas on May 13, predicted the lawsuit will fail because his appointees to the high court won't force the Legislature to make changes in the school law, one participant in the meeting said this week.

The governor said he knew where his appointees "stand on this," recalled John Carpenter, who then was president of the Highland Park school board. Highland Park, one of the state's wealthiest districts, is a plaintiff in the lawsuit.

Perry spokeswoman Kathy Walt said he has not discussed the school lawsuit with the justices but does believe the state ultimately will win the case.

"I've had no conversations with the governor on this issue, either while I was being considered for this appointment or since," Jefferson said.

"I don't think the governor is saying otherwise," he said.

Jefferson, a lawyer from San Antonio, was Perry's first appointee to a high-court vacancy in 2001. He kept his seat by winning election in 2002.

You know, it's not inconceivable to me that Perry may have reverse-psychologied himself here. If these justices really want you to believe they're independent, bending over backwards to seek equity in this lawsuit would surely do it.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on June 10, 2004 to Budget ballyhoo | TrackBack