Back in 2009, in a 5-4 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court took a major step toward ending what was then a 17-year legal battle in the Flores v. Arizona case. In their opinion, the justices wrote that lower courts erred by placing extraordinary focus on forcing Arizona to spend more money to assist English Language-Learner (ELL) students.
At the time, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito wrote, the Court of Appeals “improperly substituted its own policy judgments for those of the state and local officials entrusted with the decision.”
Flores was sent back to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals with instructions to consider whether Arizona had complied with civil-rights law by improving both English-learner programs and K-12 education policies.
The case was argued by Arizona’s then-Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tom Horne. He served in that capacity from 2003 – 2011. Horne was elected Arizona Attorney General in 2010. He and Jim Weiers, then-Speaker of the Arizona House were listed as petitioners.
The majority opinion was issued by Justice Alito and joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas. Justice Stephen Breyer filed the 47-page dissenting opinion, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, John Paul Stevens and David Souter. If you’re so inclined, the Supreme Court’s 89-page opinion can be read here.
Fast forward to 2013. The lawsuit has reached the ripe old age of 21. And whad’ya know? A federal court decision last month upholding the state’s English Language Learner programs is being appealed by Tim Hogan of the left-of-center Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest. The case is now renamed Flores v. Huppenthal. Associate Justices Souter (replaced by Sonia Sotomayor) and John Paul Stevens (replaced by Elena Kagan) have retired.
Today the State Superintendent of Public Instruction is fomer state senator John Huppenthal. He contends ELL students are making progress in the English program. Most test out of the program within three years. He believes the state will prevail in the lawsuit.
Tim Hogan remains, still representing the plaintiffs. Of his career-long case, Hogan has this to say. “We just think the district court judge has gotten the law wrong.”
The Center for Law in the Public Interest refers to itself as a “non-profit.” Obviously Hogan has been making a living from this long-in-the-tooth case. What’s the funding source?
The daily’s coverage of this ongoing bonanza can be read here.