Decision Expected Today In School Finance Judge Recusal Hearing

Jun 23, 2014

The Save Texas Schools rally outside the state capital in 2011, when $5.4 billion was cut from the education budget.
Credit Eileen Pace / TPR News

Attorneys in the school finance trial spent six hours arguing the intent of private emails at the presiding judge’s recusal hearing on Friday. The attorney general’s office is arguing that emails exchanged by the prosecution and Travis County Judge John Dietz show the judge is biased and should be removed from the historic case.

Many of the emails request opinions of the judge as to how he would like to see elements of the case presented per his organizational instructions. But the state’s attorneys claims these emails, some sent from Dietz' private email address, show a pattern of impartiality and bias.  

Houston attorney David Thompson, who represents some of the school districts involved in the case, told San Antonio Judge David Peeples, who will decide whether or not to recuse Dietz, that what the attorney general calls "coaching" they call "guidance."

Thompson said the private exchanges had to do with Dietz' organizational agenda and nothing to do with the way the judge is planning to rule.

Peeples denied the state’s request that they be given all of Dietz' communications prior to the start of the trial in 2012 through the present day. Attorneys for the school district cited examples that the attorney general’s office was fully aware that these private exchanges had been occurring.

Following a $5.4 billion cut to public education in 2011, Dietz said that the way Texas funds its schools is unconstitutional. But he put an official ruling on hold, awaiting the 2013 legislative session, which resulted in $3.4 billion being restored to education. 

Peeples is planning to rule on the recusal of Dietz by the end of the day today.