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Cruz-Guzman v. State

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

March 13, 2017

Alejandro Cruz-Guzman, as guardian and next friend of his minor children, et al., Respondents,
v.
State of Minnesota, et al., Appellants, Higher Ground Academy, et al., Intervenors.

         Hennepin County District Court File No. 27-CV-15-19117

          Daniel R. Shulman, Joy Reopelle Anderson, Richard C. Landon, Kathryn E. Hauff, Gray, Plant, Mooty, Mooty & Bennett, P.A., Minneapolis, Minnesota (for respondents).

          Lori Swanson, Attorney General, Karen D. Olson, Deputy Attorney General, Kathryn M. Woodruff, Kevin A. Finnerty, Andrew Tweeten, Assistant Attorneys General, St. Paul, Minnesota (for appellants).

          Considered and decided by Connolly, Presiding Judge; Larkin, Judge; and Reyes, Judge.

         SYLLABUS

         Claims based on a purported right to an education of a certain quality under the Education Clause, article XIII, section 1, of the Minnesota Constitution, are not justiciable.

          OPINION

          LARKIN, Judge.

         Appellants challenge the district court's refusal to dismiss respondents' class-action lawsuit, which claims that appellants violated respondents' purported right, under the Education Clause, article XIII, section 1, of the Minnesota Constitution, to an "adequate" education, that is, an education of a certain quality. Because respondents' claims present a nonjusticiable political question, we reverse.

         FACTS

         Respondents are the parents of children who are enrolled, or expected to be enrolled, in the Minneapolis public schools, Special School District No. 1, and the St. Paul public schools, Independent School District 625. Respondent One Family One Community is a Minnesota nonprofit corporation located in Minneapolis. One of its purposes is to "ensure and provide for adequate educational opportunities for economically-disadvantaged children and children of color."

         In November 2015, respondents sued appellants State of Minnesota, Minnesota Department of Education, Minnesota Department of Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius, and the Minnesota Senate and Minnesota House of Representatives. Respondents also named Governor Mark Dayton, Senate President Sandra L. Pappas, and House Speaker Kurt Daudt as defendants. Respondents claimed violations of the Education, Equal Protection, and Due Process Clauses of the Minnesota Constitution, asserting that the children had been denied the fundamental right to receive an education. Respondents also claimed a violation of the Minnesota Human Rights Act, asserting that the children have been unlawfully discriminated against "in education on the basis of race and status with regard to public assistance."

         Respondents alleged that "[s]chool children in public schools throughout the State of Minnesota, including the City of Minneapolis, the City of Saint Paul, and their adjacent suburban communities, are largely segregated by race and socioeconomic status, " that appellants are allowing and maintaining such segregated schools, and that the Minneapolis and St. Paul public school districts have established numerous "hyper-segregated schools" with the knowledge and consent of appellants.

         Respondents further alleged that their children received an inadequate education as the "result of the educational and social policies pursued or accepted by [appellants], including the racial and socioeconomic segregation of the Minneapolis and Saint Paul public schools." Respondents alleged that a "segregated education is per se an inadequate education under the Education Clause of the Minnesota State Constitution" and that "[i]n addition to receiving a racially and socioeconomically segregated education, [respondents] are in fact receiving an inadequate education by any objective measure or standard."

         Respondents' complaint sets forth data showing a racial achievement gap among students in Minnesota, as well as achievement gaps between students in Minneapolis and St. Paul public schools and students in public schools in other parts of the state. The data include standardized test scores and graduation rates. The complaint alleges that these gaps are caused by racial and socioeconomic segregation.

         Respondents' prayer for relief requests a judgment against appellants "[f]inding, adjudging, and decreeing that [appellants] have engaged in the violations of law set forth hereinabove" and "[p]ermanently enjoining [appellants] from continuing to engage in the violations of law set forth hereinabove, ordering [appellants] to remedy the violation of law set forth hereinabove, and ordering [appellants] to provide the [children] forthwith with an adequate and desegregated education."

         Appellants moved to dismiss respondents' complaint under Minn. R. Civ. P. 12.02 on the grounds that "(1) the Court lacks jurisdiction over the subject matter; (2) the Complaint fails to state a claim . . . upon which relief can be granted; and (3) [respondents] failed to join a party pursuant to Minn. R. Civ. P. 19." In the alternative, appellants asked the district court to order respondents to provide a more definite statement under Minn. R. Civ. P. 12.05.

         The district court dismissed the complaint as to Governor Dayton, Senate President Pappas, and Speaker Daudt, concluding that they are entitled to legislative immunity under the Speech or Debate Clause of the Minnesota Constitution. The district court also dismissed respondents' claim under the Minnesota Human Rights Act, concluding that respondents lacked standing. The district court otherwise denied defendants' motion to dismiss ...


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