Charter School Update

Texas Supreme Court grants petition to review the status of charter schoolsTexas Supreme Court grants petition to review the status of charter schools

Texas Supreme Court grants petition to review the status of charter schools

Austin, Texas – The Texas Supreme Court announced last week that it had granted the petition for review of Universal Academy, an open-enrollment charter school based in Irving, Texas. Universal Academy challenged a ruling by a court of appeals that open-enrollment charter schools are not ‘governmental units’ entitled to take interlocutory appeals.

Austin, Texas – The Texas Supreme Court announced last week that it had granted the petition for review of Universal Academy, an open-enrollment charter school based in Irving, Texas. Universal Academy challenged a ruling by a court of appeals that open-enrollment charter schools are not ‘governmental units’ entitled to take interlocutory appeals.

Interlocutory appeals are generally reserved for governmental bodies and are designed to protect taxpayer funds. Interlocutory appeals allow governmental bodies to immediately challenge an adverse ruling on their immunity by appealing that adverse ruling to a court of appeals prior to trial. This prevents governmental bodies from needlessly spending public funds litigating through a full trial only to later be vindicated by the court of appeals as to their immunity.

“Charter schools are governmental units entitled to take interlocutory appeals because they carry out the state function of providing free public education to our state’s students,” said Tommy Fuller, attorney for Universal Academy. “They are funded by the state with taxpayer funds, and those public funds are held in trust by the charter schools for the education of their students. Those funds are entitled to the same protection as any other governmental unit’s funds, and we are optimistic the Supreme Court will agree with us.”

The granting of a petition for review does not, in and of itself, decide the case or indicate the leaning of the Texas Supreme Court. The grant itself means simply the Court has decided to hear and rule upon the case. History shows, however, that the Supreme Court often grants a petition for review when it sees error by a court of appeals that merits correction. “It is difficult to imagine why the Supreme Court would have granted the petition if they agreed with the court of appeals,” said Mr. Fuller. “If they didn’t see an error, it seems they would have just denied the petition.”

The Texas Charter Schools Association joined Universal Academy in its argument that open-enrollment charter schools, being public schools, are governmental units entitled to make interlocutory appeals. The Association filed a friend of the court brief in January urging the Supreme Court to accept Universal Academy’s petition. Executive Director David Dunn said, “As the charter movement steadily grows across Texas we want to make certain that the public funds accepted by charter schools receive the same protections as the public funds held by other entities. Consequently, we are very pleased that the Texas Supreme Court has granted review.”

More Success at the Texas Supreme CourtMore Success at the Texas Supreme Court

More Success at the Texas Supreme Court

In another victory for charter schools, the Texas Supreme Court sided with the argument raised by the Fuller Law Group and reversed a Dallas Court of Appeals decision wherein the Dallas Court of Appeals had concluded that a charter school was not a governmental unit entitled to take an interlocutory appeal of a trial court’s denial of its plea to the jurisdiction. In its June 24, 2011 opinion in Universal Academy v. Palasota, the Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals, holding that charter schools are governmental units entitled to interlocutory appeals, citing the Court’s holding in C2 Construction, another case where Tommy Fuller represented the petitioner.

Fuller Law Group puts out Quick Guide Brochure on Charter School ImmunitiesFuller Law Group puts out Quick Guide Brochure on Charter School Immunities

Fuller Law Group puts out Quick Guide Brochure on Charter School Immunities

The Fuller Law Group’s Quick Guide Brochure on Charter School Immunities.

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Success In CourtSuccess In Court

Success In Court

The Fuller Law Group scored a victory for charter schools on June 17, 2011, when the Texas Supreme Court announced its decision in LTTS Charter School, Inc. v. C2 Construction, Inc., 342 S.W.3d 73 (Tex. June 17, 2011). The Texas Supreme Court sided with LTTS Charter School, represented by Tommy Fuller, and declared that a charter school is a governmental unit entitled to take an interlocutory appeal of a trial court’s denial of its plea to the jurisdiction. In his majority opinion, Justice Willett wrote:
 
“In sum, numerous provisions of Texas law confer ‘status’ upon and grant ‘authority’ to open-enrollment charter schools. Their status as ‘part of the public school system of this state’ —and their authority to wield ‘the powers granted to [traditional public] schools’  and to receive and spend state tax dollars  (and in many ways to function as a governmental entity)—derive wholly from the comprehensive statutory regime described above. With this legislative backdrop in mind, we are confident that the Legislature considers Universal Academy to be an ‘institution, agency, or organ of government’ under the Tort Claims Act and thus entitled to take an interlocutory appeal here.”
 
LTTS Charter School, Inc. v. C2 Construction, Inc., 342 S.W.3d 73, 78 (Tex. June 17, 2011).

Tommy Fuller speaks at First Annual Legal Summit hosted by TCSATommy Fuller speaks at First Annual Legal Summit hosted by TCSA

Tommy Fuller speaks at First Annual Legal Summit hosted by TCSA

The Texas Charter School Association invited Tommy Fuller to speak at its First Annual Legal Summit on September 8, 2011, on the issue of the immunity of charter schools. Select the button below for a copy of the slide show from Tommy’s presentation.

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