AUSTIN, Texas – Today, District Judge David Peeples of the Fourth Administrative Judicial Region in Bexar County, denied a motion filed by the State of Texas seeking the recusal of State District Judge John Dietz in the pending school finance case. Judge Peeples rejected the State’s claim that certain communications between Judge Dietz and plaintiffs’ counsel were improper and showed a lack of impartiality.
The school finance case began in late fall of 2011, following the dramatic cuts to public education funding adopted by the Texas Legislature. In February 2013, Judge Dietz held that the school finance system had evolved into an unconstitutional state property tax and that the system failed to provide the Texas school districts access to funding sufficient to provide a constitutionally adequate education. Earlier this year, he conducted an additional three-week evidentiary hearing to update the record regarding the actions of the 83rd Legislature. His final ruling and findings of fact were expected to be filed this summer before the State filed its motion for recusal.
The Calhoun County ISD plaintiffs, a group of 88 school districts, are represented by Mark Trachtenberg and John Turner, partners with Haynes and Boone, LLP. Trachtenberg addressed the Court on behalf of the school district plaintiffs in a hearing conducted Friday, arguing that the State’s motion was “woefully insufficient to meet the high burden to establish recusal.”
Following today’s ruling, Trachtenberg applauded the decision to deny the State’s motion to recuse Judge Dietz. “Judge Peeples made the right decision. As we argued in court, the kinds of communications the State challenged were authorized by all parties. There was no basis for the claim that they were improper.” Trachtenberg continued: “Those communications showed only that Judge Dietz has formed and expressed opinions based on the evidence presented during sixteen weeks of trial, as he was entitled to do, and did not establish any basis for a finding of partiality.”
Trachtenberg added, “Now that this issue is behind us, we are hopeful that a ruling from the trial court will be forthcoming, and that the ruling will advance the cause of schools, parents, and schoolchildren in addressing our unconstitutional system of school funding.”
Click here to download a full copy of the release.