on the school facilities case on the Internet. The 17-page opinion is actually pretty clear and straightforward – it says when the Legislature tried get out of the long-running school lawsuit by passing a law essentially canceling the suit, it acted unconstitutionally. The law, HB 403, was thrown out as unconstitutional special legislation, and as a violation of the separation of powers.
The case revolves around a long-running lawsuit filed by school districts against the state over inadequate funding for school construction and repair. The districts essentially won the suit in 2001 when a lower court declared Idaho’s current funding system unconstitutional and ordered lawmakers to fix it. Some incremental changes in Idaho’s funding system were approved, but lawmakers opted basically to try to ban the lawsuit rather than make more major changes. The Supreme Court said they can’t do that.
About the only thing in the court’s opinion that isn’t clear is the statement at the beginning that the court “affirmed in part and reversed in part” the earlier decision by a 4th District court that HB 403 was unconstitutional. The state appealed the lower court’s decision to the Supreme Court. In fact, the opinion appears only to affirm the lower court, and it even awards court costs to the respondents, the school districts. Nothing appears to be reversed.
A call to the Supreme Court didn’t clear up the mystery. Chief Clerk of the Court Fred Lyon said the court had had several similar inquiries, and he’d passed them on to the opinion’s author, Chief Justice Linda Copple Trout. Later, he got word that no further clarification would be offered.