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Vergara lawyers await decision on whether to let case proceed

Mark Harris | March 3, 2014

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Plaintiffs' lawyer Marcellus McRae

Plaintiffs’ lawyer Marcellus McRae

After a one-week recess, the court resumes tomorrow in the case of Vergara vs. California. Attorneys for both the defense and the nine student plaintiffs are gearing up for what could turn out to be a critical juncture in this landmark case.

Before Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu is whether to throw the case out or let it proceed with the defense calling its series of witnesses.

As they have before, the defendants — the California Teachers Association, the California Federation of Teachers and the state — are seeking to have the lawsuit dismissed. They filed a Motion for Judgment, claiming the plaintiffs have not proven that five statutes governing teacher dismissals, tenure and layoffs deny California students their fundamental right to a quality education.

The unions and the state maintain that after four weeks of testimony from educators, experts and some of the student litigants, there are still “serious and insurmountable” gaps in the plaintiffs’ case.

As part of their argument, the defendants are claiming that the laws themselves have not caused harm to the student-plaintiffs. They contend poorly managed school districts and inadequate resources are the real problem with California’s public school system. According to the defendants, the statutes provide key safeguards that help to attract and retain quality teachers.

Attorneys for Elizabeth Vergara and the eight other plaintiffs assert that they have met their burden of proof, showing by a preponderance of the evidence that the challenged laws impose a “severe and unjustifiable” harm on children. In a response to the defense motion, plaintiffs claim that the contested statutes result in keeping ineffective teachers in the classroom and have a disproportionate impact on low-income and minority students.

Plaintiffs’ attorney Marcellus McRae told LA School Report he would be “highly surprised” if Judge Treu dismisses the lawsuit. The defense has now argued for dismissal five times, but now, McRae said, there are four weeks of testimony to demonstrate why the case should proceed.

Beginning tomorrow afternoon, Judge Treu is expected to hear oral arguments from both sides. Should he deny the motion to dismiss, the defense will proceed with their case, which is expected to take another two or three weeks.

According to McRae, if plaintiffs ultimately win the lawsuit, and the statutes are struck down, the court cannot mandate that the legislature enact new laws. But the court can maintain an oversight to insure that any new legislation does not countermand the findings of the court.

Previous Posts: Vergara plaintiffs file a response, asking that the case continuesVergara lawyers preview their case, the one they might needThe Vergara defense team has asked the court to thrown the case out.



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