Thursday, May 30, 2013
On May 28, 2013, the Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Lobato v. State. Lobato involved a challenge to school inequities under Colorado's state constituion. The Supreme Court rejected plaintiffs' claim and overturned a lower court ruling in their favor. The court's opinion is unusual in that it held that the case was justiciable and that the state constitution imposed an adequacy standard on the state, but found that the state had met this standard. Most courts rejecting school finance claims have done so by refusing to reach the factual merits, finding that separation of powers concerns or the lack of a manageable adequacy standard precluded an analysis of the facts, or the courts have applied a deferential rational basis standard. Nothwithstanding extensive inequalities between school districts, the court focused on the fact that the state had a uniform funding formula in place.
Also curious is how fast the court reached its decision. The court heard arguments in early March and issued its 66 page opinion less than three months later. Given that the case involved a 5 week trial, the speed of its opinion is remarkable. I can't recall any court in recent years issuing an opinion that quickly. To the contrary, they often sit on them. Some may recall that South Carolina's Supreme Court sat on its school funding case for so long (nearly 3 years I think) that it ordered reargument. That argument was this past September and the court has yet to issue a decision.