Yesterday brought a small setback for Greg Abbott, who is, as attorney general, tasked with defending Texas’s current system for funding public schools: a visiting judge has decided that John Dietz, the district judge who has been presiding over the school finance lawsuits that have been inching their way through the courts for two and a half years, can remain on the case.
Abbott had sought to have Dietz removed from the case on grounds of favoritism toward the plaintiffs, but I don’t think he ever had a prayer of succeeding. The attorney general had pointed to emails Dietz exchanged with lawyers working on the case in recent months. Those emails did make it clear that the judge agreed with the school districts on many matters. But that was also clear from his verbal ruling, in February, that the system is unconstitutional, from the fact that he has explained his reasoning to lawyers on both sides since then, and from the fact that the state’s case, after the $5 billion budget cut enacted in 2011, is clearly tenuous. In any event, this clears the way for the case to proceed, inch by inch.