School Finance
11:54 am
Tue June 24, 2014

State Judge Denies Recusal Of Judge In School Finance Trial

The Legislature restored $3.4 billion to the education budget in the 2013 session. Will it be enough to sway Judge Dietz in his final decision?
Credit Ryan Poppe / TPR News

San Antonio Judge David Peeples has denied the attorney general's office motion to recuse Travis County District Judge John Dietz from the Texas school finance trial.   

Much of Attorney General Greg Abbott's argument had to do with private email conversations between Dietz and attorneys representing the school districts about merits of the case.

San Antonio Attorney David Hinojosa, and attorney with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund who represents some of the school districts suing the state, said the state’s attorney knew about these private conversations and had similar interactions with the judge.

“The state had participated in the same conduct it was complaining of," Hinojosa said.

During the course of the recusal hearing, attorneys for the school districts were able to show that the general counsel Shelly Dahlberg, an attorney with the AG's office, also had had similar communication with Dietz.

Hinojosa said these private conversations had to do with how Dietz wanted the case organized, but he also discussed other elements.

“He did include his thoughts about what particular findings about what should be included, what should not be included, those are not out of the ordinary and typically as Judge Peeples found that’s what happens in these cases where the prevailing parties end up drawing up the judges findings of facts and conclusions of law and modifying them so that they reflect the judges, not the party’s thoughts and processes.” 

Hinojosa said in a normal setting these communications would include all parties, but Dietz said from the beginning that these conversations would be occurring as the judge drew up his final decision.

Hinojosa said if they had tried to influence, or wrongly-communicated with the judge, the school districts had everything to lose. Dietz is expected to return to the case and soon render a decision on whether the Texas school funding system is considered adequate, fair and constitutional.

 

Order denying motion to recuse Judge Dietz in Texas school finance trial