Friday, August 31, 2001

Voucher defense team criticized

By Malia Rulon
The Associated Press

        WASHINGTON — Defenders of Cleveland's school voucher program are divided over who best should handle the state's appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

        Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery has appointed Assistant Attorney General Judith French to handle the state's case with input from former Whitewater prosecutor Kenneth Starr.

        Clint Bolick of the nonprofit Institute for Justice, a Washington-based organization that argued in support of the voucher program, says the state is taking a risk by using Ms. French, who he said does not have the experience to handle the state's case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

        The justices are to decide next month whether to will take the state's appeal of a December ruling by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati that the use of tax dollars for tuition at religious schools is unconstitutional.

        Mr. Bolick said Ms. French previously argued one case before the justices.

        “We cannot afford to leave anything to chance, and we can be assured that our opposition won't be having a rookie attorney arguing against the program,” he said.

        Ms. Montgomery said Mr. Bolick, a lawyer who has defended school vouchers in Ohio and other states, is trying to wrest control of the case from the state.

        “If he wants to argue this case, then he should run and become the attorney general of the state of Ohio,” she said. “It is the state's case.”

        Former state solicitor Jeffrey Sutton defended Cleveland's school voucher program in other courts, but he has been nominated for a judgeship on the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.


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- Voucher defense team criticized