Austin, Texas — State District Judge John Dietz declared the Texas school finance system unconstitutional last week. But the 260 hours the litigants spent in his courtroom only mark the beginning of the lawsuit's journey through the legal system.
Dietz's oral ruling, delivered from the bench immediately after the state finished its closing arguments, will be followed by a detailed written decision in four to six weeks. At that point the state plans to appeal — most likely to the Supreme Court, though it could also chose a slower trek through Austin’s 3rd Court of Appeals first. Opting for the more circuitous route could be advantageous depending on timing.
Parties involved in the litigation estimate that with a direct appeal, it would take the high court about a year to reach its final decision, sometime in spring 2014 — either right before or right after the primaries. There are three justices up for re-election then: Chief Wallace Jefferson, Jeffrey Boyd and Phil Johnson. A special session would likely take place that fall. If the legal process were more drawn out, the final decision could land just before 2015, leaving lawmakers to consider it during the 84th regular session.
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