Public Education and the Separation of Powers

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On September 15, 2016, Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen filed an application for certification to appeal Judge Moukawsher’s groundbreaking decision in Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding v. Rell directly to the Supreme Court, signaling a looming constitutional showdown between the legislature and judiciary over the future of public education in Connecticut.

Other states have had similar controversy over the legislature’s constitutional duty to provide education, prompting intense debate over the separation of powers on a par with the fundamental questions asked in Marbury v. MadisonIn Washington, for example, the court held the legislature in contempt for failing to adequately fund schools and fined them $100,000 a day until they came up with a plan to assuage the court’s concerns.  And yet, the legislature, in control of the purse strings, has not even set up the segregated account for the fines required of them by the court.  How can the judiciary force legislative action?

What makes the case here in Connecticut unique is that the superior court’s decision went beyond simply the finances at the heart of other states controversies to require that specific policy points be considered and new constitutional standards be applied to gauge the legislature’s success. 

To follow what is a fascinating case that forces us to consider the very foundations of our democratic system, head to the State of Connecticut Judicial Branch website where you can find all the latest filings.  Ask a reference librarian if you need any help!

9/7/16 Judge Moukawsher’s Memorandum of Decision

9/15/16 Attorney General’s Application for Certification to Appeal

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Adam Mackie
Reference Librarian,University of Connecticut School of Law

Adam provides reference and research assistance to library patrons, presents formal and informal research instruction in law school courses, and develops research materials in a variety of formats.  Prior to the library, Adam worked as a legislative attorney at the Hawaii state capitol and served as a law clerk for the third circuit court located in Hilo.  He received his J.D. and M.L.I.Sc. from the University of Hawaii and earned an LL.M. in International Business and Economic Law from Kyushu University in Japan.