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PA Court to Consider New Round of Motions

Although the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decisively rejected the state defendants’ motion to dismiss the complaint in that state’s pending education adequacy case and remanded the case for trial last fall (PA recent events) the state’s legislative leaders have filed motions asking the Commonwealth Court to again consider dismissing  the complaint and to resolve certain preliminary legal objections that they had raised but which, they allege, were not covered by the Supreme Court’s decision.

Governor Tom Wolf, one of the named defendants, refused to join in the motions filed by Joseph B. Scarnati, President pro tempore of the Pennsylvania Senate, and Michael C. Turzai, Speaker of the House; he and the state Department of Education requested  that the Commonwealth Court “enter an order setting the deadline for answers to the Petition for Review so that the parties may swiftly undertake discovery and move this matter toward a resolution.” The Court is hearing arguments on these motions on March 7, 2018.

Senator Scarnati argues that the funding laws that were in effect in 2014 when the case was filed were superseded by subsequent legislation and that, therefore, the case is now moot. The Speaker’s motion asks the Court to now decide certain legal issues such as whether there is an individual right to education under the Pennsylvania constitution, the standard of review that will be applied to the equal protection claims and the legal relevance of  legislative developments that have occurred since 2014 Although the Governor and the Department of Education have asked the Court to move the case to trial as soon as possible, the State Board of Education has submitted a separate motion asking the court to consider certain sovereign immunity and separation of powers objections.   

The petitioners have filed an extensive brief arguing that many of the current objections were answered by the Supreme Court’s decision, responding to each of the technical arguments raised by the various defendants and asking the Court to permit this case to move swiftly toward trial.

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