Oral arg. – Miss.S.Ct. – June 9, 2015

At 10:00 a.m. the Court will hear argument in the case of  Legislature of the State of Mississippi v. Adrian Shipman and the Attorney General’s Office which is a dispute over the title of a ballot initiative to amend Miss. Const. § 201 (1890).  That provision currently reads:

The Legislature shall, by general law, provide for the establishment, maintenance and support of free public schools upon such conditions and limitations as the Legislature may prescribe.

The amendment would change  § 201 to read:

To protect each child’s fundamental right to educational opportunity, the State shall provide for the establishment, maintenance and support of an adequate and efficient system of free public schools. The chancery courts of this State shall have the power to enforce this section with appropriate injunctive relief.

The law allows the AG to give the initiative a title and AG Jim Hood chose “Should the State be required to provide for the support of an adequate and efficient system of free public schools?”

During the 2015 session, the Legislature proposed an alternative (which it can do pursuant to § 23- 17-29):

 The Legislature shall, by general law, provide for the establishment, maintenance and support of an effective system of free public schools.

The Legislature entitled this proposal as “Shall the Legislature be required to provide for the establishment and support of an effective system of free public schools?”  AG Hood changed it to “Should the Legislature provide for the establishment and support of effective free public schools without judicial enforcement?”

A lawsuit was filed and the court accepted this title:  “Should the Legislature establish and support effective schools, but not provide a mechanism to enforce that right?”

The Legislature appealed raising the following issues:

Whether § 23-17-13 grants the Circuit Court authority to review a ballot title composed by the Attorney General under MCA. § 23-17-33 (Rev. 2007) for a proposed amendment to the Mississippi Constitution of 1890 adopted by the   Legislature under MCA § 23-17-29 (Rev. 2007).

In the alternative, whether § 23-17-13, if construed to permit the Circuit Court to review the Attorney General’s composition under § 23-17-33 of a ballot title which “indicate[s], as clearly as possible, the essential differences in the measure” is unconstitutional under the political question doctrine and the ban on advisory opinions.

Whether, in composing his title for Alternative Measure No. 42A, General Hood acted “without reason, in a whimsical manner, implying either a lack of understanding of or a disregard for the surrounding facts and settled controlling principles.” Mississippi State Dept. of Health v. Natchez Cmty. Hosp., 743 So. 2d 973, 977 (Miss. 1999).

Whether the title imposed by the Circuit Court is untruthful, in violation of § 23- 17-9 (Rev. 2007), for declaring that the constitutional amendment proposed by the Legislature does “not provide a mechanism to enforce that right” to effective public schools.

The legislature’s brief.

Intervenors’ brief.

AG’s brief.

Shipman’s brief

Legislature’s rebuttal.

Watch the argument  here.

Looks like Mike Wallace is arguing for the Appellants.  He is always worth watching.

This AP article in the Jackson Free Press explains the issues.

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