Attorney Martinez to Lead Appeal of Tashima Ruling

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Tucson attorney Richard Martinez first filed a lawsuit on behalf of 11 Tucson Unified School District teachers in October 2010 in an effort to reverse anti-Mexican-American studies law HB 2281 and on Friday, March 6 he learned U.S. District Court Judge A. Wallace Tashima didn't think most of Martinez's arguments met “the high threshold needed to establish a constitutional violation.”

Tashima ruling:

Tashima_rulling.pdf

Nonetheless, Martinez will move forward as lead attorney as part of an appeals team with attorneys from Seattle University Law School and the Bingham McCutchen law firm, the Range confirmed with Martinez late Friday.

By email, Martinez said the appeal must be filed within 30 days of the decision, and the process could take 18-24 months at the 9th Circuit. When asked what arguments will be availed for the appeal process, Martinez wrote, “When our opening brief is filed, be sure to read it, I suggest several times as it will be very comprehensive and steeped in federal constitutional law.”

With a new team in place to handle the appeal, why is it important for Martinez to remain involved? Martinez said it's his 30 years experience with civil rights cases. “I have been in this case from its inception, know the facts and all the players and work well with all of the legal team members. This legal was formed out of our effort here in Tucson that has at its core the MAS educators who became plaintiffs and the students and parent who joined them as plaintiffs. HB 2281 was always understood as an issue with national importance and treated as such.”

The Range first contacted the law firm of Bingham McCutchen when we first learned the firm would be part of the team handling the appeal of Tashima's ruling, in which he did find one provision in the law unconstitutional — "classes designed primarily for pupils of a particular group ethnic group" — but Martinez contacted us to explain that he was the media point person regarding the appeal.

Martinez said since the beginning of the lawsuit, attorneys from throughout the country have been consulted, and attorneys from Seattle Univeristy and Bingham McCutchen have gotten involved “out of a profound interest in the issue and the legal questions presented.”

“We are a legal team that has come together in an important civil rights case with a common belief in the importance of challenging the constitutionality of HB 2281,” Martinez wrote. “The formation of this team is common in important civil rights cases, and reflects the members of the bar who are dedicated to providing their time and expertise on a pro bono basis. This case was commenced in that tradition and will remain such.”

What happens next with the desegregation effort, which includes a federal judge's order to have Mexican-American and African-American studies courses, as well as curriculum, as part of course offerings in TUSD beginning in 2014.

In a recently constituents' letter sent out by TUSD school board member Mark Stegeman, who was one of four votes last year to dismantle the MAS program, wrote that the ruling, while likely to be appealed, "is important for TUSD because the recent order in the separate desegregation case makes it clear that TUSD should respect the Ethnic Studies law, which has now survived the challenge to its constitutionality."

"This makes it essentially impossible to restore anything closely resembling the former MAS program. At least, restoring the program would almost certainly trigger new state findings and financial penalties, based on the precedents established in the administrative law decision."

Sylvia Campoy, the Mendoza plaintiff representative in the TUSD desegregation case, in a statement released to the Range said it's clear to here that the district must move forward in creating the MAS and African-American studies courses and curriculum:

"The culturally relevant courses (CRCs) in the Desegregation/Unitary Status Plan are part of a court remedy to a constitutional violation. Judge Bury pointed out in his Feb. 6, 2013 order that 'the Supreme Court has held that state laws cannot be allowed to impede a desegregation order' (p. 16 of his order). TUSD is required to implement the Desegregation Plan, including the CRC components. The Desegregation Plan requires that all CRC courses 'shall be developed using the District's curricular review process and shall meet District and state standards for academic rigor.' The Desegregation Plan was adopted by the Court and the District has been ordered to implement the Plan, which has transpired while AZ. State Statute 15-112 (HB 2281) has been in effect. All course work that is rolled out under the Desegregation Plan will be aligned with the Core Standards, as is required for all curricula."

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