Saturday, December 16, 2006

Mendoza v. California, Act 1 | School Me Reports live!

Live-blogging the Takeover Lawsuit

News Alert: Superior Court Judge Dzintra Janavs says she wants to get a decision on the case out by next Thursday at the latest.


The fate of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's schools takeover legislation hangs in the air today as the mayor's legal eagles take on the LAUSD's law team at Los Angeles Superior Court. Armed with a dying Blackberry, School Me's (The LA Times Education Blog) Bob Sipchen reports from the scene:

1:45 PM: Court's back in session. Can Jiffy Lube run a public school? That's the question before Judge Dzintra Janavs. Really. At least one of them. A hypothetical, floated by the LAUSD team to challenge the legislature's decision to change who rules the local schools. School Me's in the courtroom and will let you know what happens...

1:54 PM: The judge has just raised the issue of "severability" -- whether part of the bill can and should survive if other parts are killed --saying that she wants to understand it in case she finds at least part of the bill unconstitutional.

2:01 PM: The district's side is basically agin' the judge letting any aspect of the law stand -- though they admit that certain other parts could conceivably function if the judge doesn't give the mayor his demonstration schools. The mayor's side argues that the spirit of the law is to encourage reform, so it's all good. If one part gets shot down, let the rest reform on.

"It's very clear that this is compromise measure," says Judge Janavs. To which the mayor's side replies that all legislation involves compromise. The judge seems interested in which pieces of the bill were "quid pro quo."

The peanut gallery, filled with named plaintiffs and the usual suspects including reporters and a handful of education obsessives, get several good laughs out of the judge's quips, then, noting that the matter is a complicated one...

2:02 PM: The judge says she wants to get a decision out by next Thursday at the latest.

2:07 PM: and then: "The matter is submitted and the court is in recess."

2:45 PM: Back at the Times, dazed by how quickly the afternoon session ended, School Me reflects on an amusing post-hearing moment: Outside, in the 8th floor Superior Court hallway, outgoing school board member David Tokofsky slipped into the scrum of reporters -- NBC'S Laurel Erickson, The Daily News' Naush Boghossian, the Times' Duke Helfand, etc. -- and began peppering the mayor's counsel, Thomas Saenz, with his own questions. Saenz, in an apparent reference to Tokofsky's Op-Ed in today's Times, says something to the effect of: What, you think you're a reporter now? The two dry-witted wise guys' jocular sparring begins to get heated, and Saenz finally dismisses his interlocutor with: "I know you're upset, David. Everyone knows you're upset."

Asked by Helfand if, should the judge decide against his case, the mayor's side will appeal, Saenz responded: "Absolutely."

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