Seeking to end the long-pending Leandro/Hoke litigation, Superior Court Judge David Lee last June approved a comprehensive, 8-year plan that aims to ensure all students in the state the opportunity for a sound basic education guaranteed by the state constitution. When the legislature failed to approve the initial funding to support the plan, in November, the Judge ordered the state of North Carolina to transfer $1.7 billion from its reserves to fund the first phase of the plan. At the end of November, the North Carolina Court of Appeals overruled Judge Lee’s order, holding that although the lower court was correct in saying that the state must fund the plan, it is not within its power to order money be appropriated.
Late last month, North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul Newby, a registered Republican, suddenly replaced Judge Lee, a registered Democrat, as the presiding trial court judge for the case, without any advance notice. Justice Newby then ordered special Superior Court Judge Michael Robinson, a registered republican, to take over the case. Judge Robinson is required to determine how much of the $1.7 billion that is necessary to fund a comprehensive remedial school improvement plan was included in the current state budget. Judge Robinson must present his findings to the state Supreme Court by April 20.