AR Supreme Court Issues Stay in LRSD Takeover Lawsuit

LITTLE ROCK, AR – LITTLE ROCK, AR – Testimony inside Judge Wendell Griffen’s courtroom was brought to a halt mid-question on Thursday.

“The judge has no choice but to obey them, and we don’t either,” says plaintiff attorney Marion Humphrey.

The State Supreme Court intervening, to immediately stop a hearing on the State Board of Education’s takeover of the Little Rock School District.

“There’s just been a pause in these proceedings while the Supreme Court considers the other issue,” says Counsel for Department of Education Jeremy Laister.

Eight hours of testimony currently in limbo as former school board members wait to see if their case against the state and an effort to put the board back in place will move forward.

“This is unprecedented to take control over a school district that is not in academic distress,” says Humphrey.

The state is trying to establish a history of sub-par school performance.

“I think we’ve been able to establish that the state board did have the authority to do what it did for LRSD,” says Laister.

And testimony from Superintendent Dexter Suggs claims the board would rather delay than deal with pressing issues.

And that no real plan was in place for improvement with key components missing at the time of takeover.

“His testimony was altogether different from Dr. Whitehorn’s who worked under him and has worked there for a long time,” says Humphrey.

“For him to indicate there was no governance was truly shocking to me,” says LRSD board member Joy Springer.

Attorneys for the ousted school board now face the state’s highest court.

“This has opened up some things in Little Rock and the people on the State Board of Education are going to have to repair it. They have a responsibility to repair the trust they destroyed,” says Humphrey.

“We are absolutely committed to doing everything we can to improve the academic conditions in those schools,” Lasiter says.

And as this portion is put on pause, the Little Rock School District remains in state control.

Further action will have to occur in the supreme court. The court didn’t give a reason for its granting the stay on the issue of whether the state can be sued in state court over this issue. We’ll continue to follow this story and bring you updates as we get them.

The brief order (see attached above or click here) gave no further explanation.

Our content partner the Arkansas Blog (Arkansas Times) reports the request for a stay was part of the Education Department’s appeal of Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen’s ruling that the lawsuit was not barred by the doctrine of sovereign immunity. The theory that the state cannot be sued generally applies only to monetary damages. None are being sought in this case, but rather the return of the school district to local control. Griffen ruled, as many other courts have, that sovereign immunity does not apply on questions of whether the state has exceeded its authority and acted arbitrarily. He said plaintiffs had asserted sufficient ground to have a trial on the facts of those allegations.

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