Attorneys argue over including extra legal professionals in ConVal school-funding case | Native Information

The NH attorney general wants to hire two outside attorneys to assist with the recent legal battle over the state’s school funding formula. But lawyers for the growing list of school districts who argue the formula is unconstitutional say they should not be allowed to join the case, including because the state has exceeded its total budget for such services by more than $ 2.4 million.

The state is seeking to retain two St. Louis-based attorneys who specialize in litigation related to education funding for the case. These are back in the Cheshire County Supreme Court after a Supreme Court ruling in March found that the original 2019 ruling failed to apply proper legal analysis in the case when the state declares it is doing its constitutional duty fails to finance adequate education.

In court documents filed earlier this month, Michael Tierney, the Manchester-based attorney who represents the counties – including ConVal, the lead plaintiff; Fall Mountain; Monadnock; and Winchester – argued that the process of securing funds to hire these attorneys could delay the case, an allegation the state denies.

The attorney general’s office has a total budget of $ 350,000 this year to hire an outside attorney on all cases it handles, Tierney wrote. If the Bureau exceeds this budget, it must seek approval for additional funding from the Executive Board and the Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee.

“However, the state neglects to mention that it has already exceeded the $ 350,000 line item for fiscal 2021 by more than $ 2.4 million and went through the time-consuming and unsafe process of first meeting the Finance Committee and then to get approval from the Executive Board, “he wrote.

However, prosecutors argue that they do not need this permit to keep two attorneys, J. Nicci Warr and John R. Munich, of the law firm Stinson LLP.

According to documents submitted as exhibits on Tierney’s application, the state has received approval for additional legal costs of $ 2,418,250 for the current fiscal year. Deputy Attorney General Anthony J. Galdieri wrote that the state budget for external litigation could cover Warr and Munich fees.

“Contrary to the unsupported allegation of the petitioners in their objection, respondents do not have to spend time seeking the approval of the finance committee or the governor and council to keep attorneys Munich and Warr in this action,” Galdieri wrote in a motion last Week submitted. “Regardless, the petitioners do not explain how applying for such a permit (even if it had to be carried out) would in any way slow the case down.”

However, the $ 2.4 million approved for additional legal costs is due to specific cases – including the investigation into alleged sexual abuse at the state former youth development center and antitrust investigation into health systems transactions – rather than the lawsuit These documents show school funding.

ConVal, Monadnock, Winchester, and Mascenic districts spent a total of $ 129,263 on legal fees in the first case in 2019 before going to the Supreme Court. Tierney said Monday, citing the latest number in publicly available court documents. He declined to provide an updated total as that number was not published in subsequent court records and ConVal district officials could not be reached on Monday to provide that number.

Cheshire County Supreme Court Justice David W. Ruoff, who heads the case, has not yet made a decision on whether Warr and Munich will be allowed to join the case.

Meanwhile, the number of school districts that have joined the case has grown to 12. The Mascoma Valley regional school district became the youngest district to become a co-plaintiff on Monday. This emerges from a press release from the ConVal school district, submitted for the first time in March 2019.

Winchester, Monadnock and Mascenic counties signed the case before it went to the Cheshire County Supreme Court later that year. Thereafter, Ruoff ruled that the state’s school funding formula was unconstitutional.

Both sides appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, which ruled in March that the case must be returned to a higher court to partially resolve the controversial underlying facts of the case – such as determining the components and costs of a constitutionally reasonable one Training -. before Ruoff can continue to rule whether the formula is unconstitutional.

Mountain, Claremont, Derry, Grantham, Hillsboro-Deering, Newport and Oyster River counties have also joined the case since the Supreme Court ruling. During a status conference last month, Ruoff set Friday as the deadline for additional districts to sign the case. The Keene Board of Education is due to meet on Tuesday evening to discuss whether the district will join the case.

The trial date for the case has not yet been set, but Ruoff said during the April status conference that it could begin in the summer of 2022.

The ConVal lawsuit is the latest in a series of school funding cases dating back to the early 1990s when the state Supreme Court made its Claremont I and II rulings. These opinions said that the state must fund “adequate training”.

For the current school year, the state provided districts with a baseline of $ 3,708 per student for “adequacy assistance” plus additional amounts tied to students’ socio-economic status, number of students in special education programs, and other factors.

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