School Finance
2:04 pm
Tue June 3, 2014

Abbott Asks School Finance Judge To Recuse Himself From Case

The Save Texas Schools rally at the state capitol in 2011, the year that $5.4 billion was cut from education.
Credit Eileen Pace / TPR News

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has asked the Travis County judge overseeing the lawsuit against the state’s school finance system to recuse himself from the case. The problem stems from a series of emails between the judge and attorneys representing the school districts.

In February of this year Travis County District Judge John Dietz heard final arguments in the case and began deciding a final verdict on school finance in Texas. In a case that is expected to be appealed to the Texas Supreme Court, Dietz is taking his time on the decision.

But between March and May, as both sides awaited the ruling, attorneys for the school districts in the case sent emails to Dietz to try and get a feel for which way he was leaning on the decision. While this is a common legal inquiry, the attorneys did not copy the state, who were made aware of the emails in mid-May.

Abbott said that the emails discussed the merits of the case without the state's knowledge, and it has affected Deitz's ability to make an un-biased decision.

Attorney David Hinojosa with the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund represents some of the school districts and called Abbott's motion a stall tactic to further delay the ruling.

“When you don’t have a lot of evidence to support your case you file a bunch of paperwork, and that’s what we see the state doing," Hinojosa said.

Dietz made a bench ruling in 2013, finding the Texas school finance system unconstitutional because of the $5.4 billion cut from the education budget in 2011. Lawmakers restored $3.4 billion of those cuts in the 2013 session.