This post appears here courtesy of the Carolina Journal
. The author of this post is CJ Staff
The new judge overseeing North Carolina's long-running Leandro school funding lawsuit wants another seven days to issue his ruling. He asked the N.C. Supreme Court Tuesday to grant him another week to consider the case.
Special Superior Court Judge Michael Robinson is scheduled to issue a ruling Wednesday. That's the end of a 30-day period the state Supreme Court granted Robinson for a Leandro review. Once Robinson finalizes his ruling, the case will return to the state Supreme Court.
Robinson is tasked with determining how the current state budget affects a Nov. 10 court order calling for $1.75 billion in new education-related spending.
In seeking more time to complete the review, Robinson cited "the submission by the parties of a large number of position papers, affidavits, and documents including calculations and contentions by a number of the parties"
about the budget's impact on items within the $1.75 billion order.
"The parties are not in complete agreement on the amount of funding provided in the Budget Act for the programs,"
Robinson wrote. "[T]here is also disagreement regarding how the Court should interpret certain appropriations made in the Budget Act as well as the proper treatment for federal grants available to the state."
"In order to carefully consider the submissions and arguments of counsel for the parties and issue an appropriate order detailing its findings and conclusions, the undersigned is in need of, and therefore requests, an extension of seven days,"
If the Supreme Court grants Robinson's request, he would have until April 27 to issue his ruling.
Carolina Journal reported Friday that the case's plaintiffs, another set of education spending advocates called the "Penn-Intervenors,"
and lawyers working for the N.C. Justice Department all reach the same basic conclusion. They want Robinson to scale back the initial order by nearly $1 billion.
They urge Robinson to order the transfer of almost $770 million from the state treasury to fund items included in a court-ordered Comprehensive Remedial Plan. That plan is designed to help resolve a state court battle over education funding that started in 1994. The state Supreme Court already has issued major rulings in the case in 1997 and 2004. The high court is expected to address the case again once Robinson concludes his work.
Standing against the other parties in the case, state legislative leaders argue Robinson should issue no order for new education spending. They say the state budget adopted on Nov. 18 essentially mooted the spending order from Robinson's predecessor, Judge David Lee. Legislative leaders also argue that the budget offers more funding than the other parties acknowledge.
Outside of the arguments about the level of funding, State Controller Linda Combs offers Robinson a different request. She wants the court to avoid targeting her for any action. Combs says the initial Nov. 10 order placed her in the position of violating either a court order or state law. Lee's order called on the controller, treasurer, and Office of State Budget and Management to transfer money from the treasury. State law forbids Combs from moving any money without authorization from the legislature, her attorney argued.
A complaint from Combs prompted the N.C. Court of Appeals to issue a rare "writ of prohibition"
blocking Lee's Nov. 10 order. An appeal of the Appeals Court's ruling returned the case to the state Supreme Court.
The high court has agreed to hear the case, but only after the trial court completes a 30-day review comparing the original order and the state budget. On the same day Supreme Court justices ordered that one-month review, Chief Justice Paul Newby replaced Lee with Robinson.
As of Tuesday, Robinson has had the case for 29 days.