Judge rules Vergara case goes on; defense case starts Wednesday
Mark Harris | March 4, 2014
After giving lawyers one more chance to make their arguments today, Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu ruled that Vergara v California will proceed, denying the defendants’ request to throw the case out.
As defendants, the state and its two biggest teachers unions tried to persuade the judge that in four weeks of testimony, the plaintiffs — nine students — did not present enough evidence to prove that the five contested statutes governing teacher dismissal, tenure and layoffs deny students right to an effective education.
As a result, Treu invited the defendants to start presenting their own witnesses, the first of whom, Robert Fraisse, a former teacher, principal and superintendent, will take the stand tomorrow morning.
Fraisse,who served as superintendent in three California school districts — Laguna Beach, Conejo Valley and Hueneme Elementary — is the defense’s second witness. Due to a scheduling issue, the first — Susan Moore Johnson, a professor of Education at Harvard — testified several weeks ago.
In the oral arguments, Jim Finberg, a lawyer for the California Federation of Teachers and the California Teachers Association, and Deputy State Attorney Nimrod Elias insisted that plaintiffs have not shown that the statutes are unconstitutional on their face or have caused the plaintiffs any significant harm. They further said the testimony 22 educators, experts and student litigants was not enough to establish a direct link between the contested laws and the individual plaintiffs.
Ted Boutrous, the plaintiffs’ lawyer, responded by telling the court they have provided overwhelming and compelling evidence that demonstrates the challenged statutes impose a “real and appreciable” impact on students’ fundamental right to an education. He said testimony from educators and experts in labor economics and statistical research had shown that the statutes result in students not getting the educational opportunities they deserve.
After Treu’s ruling, Boutrous issued a statement, saying, “We are very pleased with Judge Treu’s ruling and look forward to the rest of the trial.” He added “These arbitrary laws are hurting kids every day. We do not believe the State and the teachers unions will be able to prove otherwise.”
Treu’s ruling was the fifth time defendants were denied in a request to have the case dismissed.