Sunday, May 21, 2000

Justice's idea draws doubts

School funding summit might not be legal

The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — Legal questions may block a summit of state executive, legislative and judicial leaders proposed by an Ohio Supreme Court justice.

        Justice Alice Robie Resnick suggested Thursday that all seven justices sit with Gov. Bob Taft and legislative leaders to talk over solutions to school funding problems.

        Justice Resnick wrote the court's 4-3 majority decision this month that declared for a second time that the state's school funding formula was unconstitutional because it relied too heavily on property taxes.

        Mr. Taft and leaders of the Republican majority in the legislature conferred with their attorneys Friday about such a meeting. Some state officials expressed concern about whether the justices could meet outside the courtroom to discuss a pending action with representatives of only one side in the case.

        “I'm flabbergasted,” Senate President Richard H. Finan, R-Cincinnati, told the Columbus Dispatch in a story published Saturday. “I've never heard of anything like this before.” Mr. Finan said clients are never sent to the table to settle a case. “You send your attorneys.” Mr. Taft said he would seek advice from his chief counsel, William Klatt, and Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery.

        House Speaker Jo Ann Davidson, R-Reynoldsburg, said she would like to solve the case, which has gone on since 1991, but added that the proposed summit might not be the answer.

        Sen. Ben Espy of Columbus, the outgoing leader of Democrats in the Senate, also said he didn't think the meeting would be a good idea.

        “I think that combines the two functions (legislative and judicial) of government too much,” he said.

        Ms. Montgomery described Justice Resnick's proposal as “highly unusual” and questioned its legal propriety in view of court rules that all communications with the justices must go through lawyers.


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