LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The initial briefings justifying or opposing the suspension of the Arkansas LEARNS Act were made to the state Supreme Court Tuesday morning.
The question before the court is if it should uphold the current temporary restraining order blocking LEARNS Act implementation that was granted two weeks ago by Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Herbert Wright.
The group who sought the restraining order claimed the Arkansas General Assembly did not properly follow legislature procedure in approving the act with an emergency clause, which would have put it into immediate effect. The group argued that a separate vote as required by the state constitution for the emergency act status but that it was not taken.
The judge agreed with the opponent’s position, putting the implementation of the act on hold. This in turn stopped an in-progress transition of the Marvell-Elaine School District to being taken over by the Friendship Education Foundation.
Opponents of the act continue to maintain that the legislature did not follow proper procedure in implementing the emergency clause in the act’s passage in Tuesday’s briefing.
The Supreme Court has also asked those submitting briefs to determine if it was appropriate for a court case based upon sovereign immunity, a legal term that prevents states from being sued, and if the act’s implementation was a political question, and not subject to the court’s jurisdiction.
Little Rock attorney Ali Noland maintained that opposing the act did not counter the two questions. She also pointed out the importance of following state constitution rules in approving legislation.
Arkansas Solicitor General Nicholas J. Bronni countered Noland’s filing, claiming that the legislature had followed proper procedure in invoking the emergency clause. The legislature had already agreed upon a legislative process that let the emergency clause take effect, the briefing states.
The state also argues that placing the entire LEARNS Act on hold harms not only Arkansas schools preparing for the new school year, but “hundreds” of laws passed in the last legislative session with an emergency clause. It also argues that sovereign immunity and the political question both mean the Supreme Court must dismiss this case.
Lawyers for both sides have until 9 a.m. Wednesday to submit briefings in response to their opposite’s Tuesday filing.