Alejandro Cruz-Guzman, as guardian and next friend of his minor children, et al., Appellants/Cross-Respondents,
State of Minnesota, et al., Respondents/Cross-Appellants, and Higher Ground Academy, et al., Defendants-Intervenors.
of Appeals Office of Appellate Courts
R. Shulman, Joy Reopelle Anderson, Richard C. Landon, Kathryn
E. Hauff, Gray, Plant, Mooty, Mooty & Bennett, P.A.,
Minneapolis, Minnesota; John G. Shulman, Jeanne-Marie
Almonor, Minneapolis, Minnesota; Mel C. Orchard, III, The
Spence Law Firm, LLC, Jackson, Wyoming; and James Cook, Law
Office of John Burris, Oakland, California, for
Swanson, Attorney General, Karen D. Olson, Deputy Attorney
General, Kathryn M. Woodruff, Kevin A. Finnerty, Assistant
Attorneys General, Saint Paul, Minnesota, for
Y. Perry, Michael W. Kaphing, Briggs and Morgan, P.A.,
Minneapolis, Minnesota; and John Cairns, John Cairns Law,
P.A., Minneapolis, Minnesota, for amici curiae Higher Ground
Academy, et al.
J. Nelson, John B. Gordon, American Civil Liberties Union of
Minnesota, Saint Paul, Minnesota; and William Z. Pentelovich,
Jesse D. Mondry, Maslon LLP, Minneapolis, Minnesota, for
amicus curiae American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota.
Stancil, Minneapolis, Minnesota, for amici curiae Concerned
Temkin, Jones Day, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Todd R. Geremia,
James M. Gross, Jones Day, New York, New York; David G.
Sciarra, Education Law Center, Newark, New Jersey; and Derek
W. Black, Columbia, South Carolina, for amici curiae
Education Law Center and the Constitutional and Education Law
A. Remele, Jr., Kate L. Homolka, Bassford Remele,
Minneapolis, Minnesota, for amici curiae Tiffini Flynn
Forslund, et al.
Orfield, Minneapolis, Minnesota, for amicus curiae Myron
Dissenting, Anderson, J., Gildea, C.J. Took no part, Thissen,
Appellants' claims alleging violations of the Education
Clause of the Minnesota Constitution, Minn. Const. art. XIII,
§ 1, are justiciable.
Appellants' claims alleging violations of the Equal
Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Minnesota
Constitution, Minn. Const. art. I, §§ 2, 7, are
protections of the Speech or Debate Clause of the Minnesota
Constitution, Minn. Const. art. IV, § 10, do not extend
to claims that the Legislature has violated its duty under
the Education Clause of the Minnesota Constitution, Minn.
Const. art. XIII, § 1, or violated the Equal Protection
or Due Process Clauses of the Minnesota Constitution, Minn.
Const. art. I, §§ 2, 7.
district court did not err when it denied the State's
motion seeking to dismiss the complaint for failure to join
school districts and charter schools as parties.
appeal, we must decide whether claims alleging that the State
has failed to provide students with an adequate education are
justiciable. Appellants, who are primarily parents of
children enrolled in Minneapolis and Saint Paul public
schools, brought a putative class-action complaint on behalf
of their children against respondents State of Minnesota and
other State entities and officials. Appellants claim that the
State has violated the Education, Equal Protection, and Due
Process Clauses of the Minnesota Constitution. The State
moved to dismiss the complaint on multiple grounds. The
district court partially granted and partially denied the
State's motion. The State filed an interlocutory appeal,
and the court of appeals reversed, concluding that the
complaint's claims present a nonjusticiable political
question. We hold that separation-of-powers principles do not
prevent the judiciary from ruling on whether the Legislature
has violated its duty under the Education Clause or violated
the Equal Protection or Due Process Clauses of the Minnesota
Constitution. We also hold that the district court did not
err when it denied the State's motion seeking to dismiss
the complaint based on legislative immunity and the failure
to join necessary parties. We therefore reverse the decision
of the court of appeals.
November 2015, appellants Alejandro Cruz-Guzman, et al.,
commenced an action against respondents State of Minnesota,
the Minnesota Senate, the Minnesota House of Representatives,
the Minnesota Department of Education, and Dr. Brenda
Cassellius, the Commissioner of Education (collectively, the
State). Appellants seek to represent "a class
of children enrolled, or expected to be enrolled during the
pendency of this action, in the Minneapolis Public Schools,
Special School District No. 1, and the Saint Paul Public
Schools, Independent School District 625." When we
review the denial of a motion to dismiss, we consider only
the facts alleged in the complaint, and we accept those facts
as true. See Gretsch v. Vantium Capital, Inc., 846
N.W.2d 424, 429 (Minn. 2014).
complaint contains copious data demonstrating a "high
degree of segregation based on race and socioeconomic
status" in Minneapolis and Saint Paul public schools.
The public schools in Minneapolis and Saint Paul that
appellants' children and other school-age children attend
are "disproportionately comprised of students of color
and students living in poverty, as compared with a number of
neighboring and surrounding schools and districts."
These segregated and "hyper-segregated" schools
have significantly worse academic outcomes in comparison with
neighboring schools and suburban school districts in measures
such as graduation rates; pass rates for state-mandated Basic
Standards Tests; and proficiency rates in math, science, and
reading. Appellants describe these racially and
socioeconomically segregated schools as "separate and
unequal" from "neighboring and surrounding whiter
and more affluent suburban schools" and detail the
extensive harms of racial and socioeconomic segregation.
highlight several practices by the Minneapolis and Saint Paul
public schools, other school districts, charter schools, and
the State as contributing to school segregation and
inadequate educational outcomes. The practices include
boundary decisions for school districts and school attendance
areas; the formation of segregated charter schools and the
decision to exempt charter schools from desegregation plans;
the use of federal and state desegregation funds for other
purposes; the failure to implement effective desegregation
remedies; and the inequitable allocation of resources.
assert that the State has violated its constitutional duty
under the Education Clause of the Minnesota Constitution,
Minn. Const. art. XIII, § 1. Appellants contend that in
addition to failing to fulfill its constitutional duty under
the Education Clause, the State has violated the Equal
Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Minnesota
Constitution, Minn. Const. art. I, §§ 2, 7, by
enabling school segregation and depriving students of their
fundamental right to an adequate education.
complaint requests declaratory and injunctive relief.
Specifically, appellants have asked the district court to
permanently enjoin the State from "continuing to engage
in the violations of law," to order the State to
"remedy the violations of law," and to order the
State "to provide the [students] forthwith with an
adequate and desegregated education." Appellants did not
bring any direct claims against either the Minneapolis Public
Schools or the Saint Paul Public Schools, and do not directly
seek any remedies from any school district or charter school.
State moved to dismiss the complaint on multiple grounds,
including lack of subject matter jurisdiction, failure to
state a claim upon which relief can be granted, and failure
to join all interested persons. The district court concluded
that Skeen v. State, 505 N.W.2d 299 (Minn. 1993),
had "already held that Minnesota's Education Clause
creates a fundamental right to education which will subject
any state action that allegedly violates that right,
including action by the legislature, to strict
judicial scrutiny." The district court
dismissed certain defendants from the action and dismissed
the claims brought under the Minnesota Human Rights Act, but
otherwise denied the motion to dismiss.
State filed an interlocutory appeal, raising the following
issues: (1) whether the district court erred by refusing to
dismiss the complaint for lack of justiciability; (2) whether
the district court erred by refusing to dismiss the claims
against the Minnesota Senate and House of Representatives
based on legislative immunity; and (3) whether the district
court erred by refusing to dismiss the complaint for failure
to join individual school districts and charter schools as
court of appeals reversed, holding that appellants'
claims "present a nonjusticiable political
question." Cruz-Guzman v. State, 892 N.W.2d
533, 541 (Minn.App. 2017). While acknowledging that
segregation claims are justiciable, the court decided that
all of appellants' claims are "rooted in a purported
right to an education of a certain quality."
Id. at 536-37 n.1. The court concluded that
resolving appellants' claims would "require
establishment of a qualitative educational standard, which is
a task for the legislature and not the judiciary."
Id. at 541. Accordingly, the court reversed the
district court's order refusing to dismiss
appellants' case for lack of justiciability. Id.
Because the court's ruling on justiciability was
dispositive, the court did not address the State's other
arguments concerning legislative immunity or the failure to
join necessary parties. See id. at 536, 541.
granted appellants' petition for further review, which
raised the justiciability issue. We also granted the
State's request for conditional cross-review, which asked
us to review the legislative immunity and joinder issues.
case comes to us on the State's appeal from the district
court's order denying the State's motion to dismiss.
A district court order denying a motion to dismiss for
failure to state a claim is generally not immediately
appealable as of right. See Minn. R. Civ. App. P.
103.03; Kokesh v. City of Hopkins, 238 N.W.2d 882,
884 (Minn. 1976). Immediate appellate review is available,
however, for orders denying a motion to dismiss for lack of
subject matter jurisdiction, government immunity, or the
nonjoinder of necessary parties. See Kastner v. Star
Trails Ass'n, 646 N.W.2d 235, 238 (Minn. 2002)
(explaining that interlocutory appeal is available to review
issues of subject matter jurisdiction and government
immunity); Hunt v. Nev. State Bank, 172 N.W.2d 292,
301 (Minn. 1969) (holding that there is "an appeal of
right" from an order denying a motion to dismiss for
nonjoinder of an indispensable party). We review de novo the
district court's decision on the State's motion to
dismiss. Park Nicollet Clinic v. Hamann, 808 N.W.2d
828, 831 (Minn. 2011). We "consider only the facts
alleged in the complaint, accepting those facts as true[, ]
and must construe all reasonable inferences in favor of the
nonmoving party." Bodah v. Lakeville Motor Express,
Inc., 663 N.W.2d 550, 553 (Minn. 2003).
first to the justiciability of appellants' claims that
the State has failed to meet its obligations under the
Education Clause, Article XIII, Section 1 of the Minnesota
presence of a justiciable controversy is "essential to
our exercise of jurisdiction." Bicking v. City of
Minneapolis, 891 N.W.2d 304, 308 (Minn. 2017) (citation
omitted) (internal quotation marks omitted). Justiciability
is separate and distinct from the merits of the case. See
McCaughtry v. City of Red Wing, 808 N.W.2d 331, 341
(Minn. 2011). The State argues that appellants' claims
present a political question that is not justiciable-that is,
not "appropriate or suitable for adjudication by a
court." Justiciability, Black's Law
Dictionary (10th ed. 2014). Justiciability is a question
of law that we review de novo. McCaughtry, 808
N.W.2d at 337. In addition, the interpretation of the
constitution is a purely legal issue that we review de novo.
Ninetieth Minn. State Senate v. Dayton, 903 N.W.2d
609, 617 (Minn. 2017).
complaint specifies that appellants brought this lawsuit
under the Education Clause of the Minnesota Constitution,
The stability of a republican form of government depending
mainly upon the intelligence of the people, it is the duty of
the legislature to establish a general and uniform system of
public schools. The legislature shall make such provisions by
taxation or otherwise as will secure a thorough and efficient
system of public schools throughout the state.
Minn. Const. art. XIII, § 1. Appellants assert that the
Legislature has violated the duty imposed upon it by the
we have not had many occasions to interpret or apply the
Education Clause, we have consistently adjudicated claims
asserting violations of the Clause. In the earliest case,
decided almost 150 years ago, we stated that the object of
the constitutional clause on education "is to ensure a
regular method throughout the state, whereby all may be
enabled to acquire an education which will fit them to
discharge intelligently their duties as citizens of the
republic." Bd. of Educ. of Sauk Ctr. v. Moore,
17 Minn. 412, 416 (1871).
another early case, we held that the education system
provided by the Legislature did not violate the Education
Clause when it "afford[ed] upon like terms the means for
obtaining a common-school education to all resident scholars
of the requisite age" and "ha[d] a general and
uniform application to the entire state, so that the same
grade or class of public schools [could] be enjoyed by all
localities similarly situated." Curryer v.
Merrill, 25 Minn. 1, 6 (1878).
most recent case involving the Education Clause, decided 25
years ago, we held that because the plaintiffs were
"unable to establish that the basic system [was]
inadequate" and "the existing system continue[d] to
meet the basic educational needs of all districts,"
there was no "constitutional violation of the state
constitutional provisions which require the state to
establish a 'general and uniform system of public
schools' which will secure a 'thorough and efficient
system of public schools.'" Skeen v. State,
505 N.W.2d 299, 312 (Minn. 1993). In all of these cases, we
resolved Education Clause claims; we did not dismiss these
claims as nonjusticiable.
the court of appeals focused on our refusal in those previous
cases to "engage in educational-policy
determinations" and held that appellants' Education
Clause claims present a nonjusticiable political question.
Cruz-Guzman, 892 N.W.2d at 540. We have defined a
political question as "a matter which is to be exercised
by the people in their primary political capacity," or a
matter that "has been specifically delegated to some
other department or particular officer of the government,
with discretionary power to act." In re
McConaughy, 119 N.W. 408, 417 (Minn. 1909). Under
separation-of-powers principles, the judiciary cannot
"exercise any of the powers properly belonging" to
the Legislature unless "expressly provided" in the
Minnesota Constitution. Minn. Const. art. III, § 1.
is no dispute that the Minnesota Constitution assigns to the
Legislature responsibility for establishing a public school
system. Minn. Const. art. XIII, § 1; see Bd. of
Educ. of Minneapolis v. Erickson, 295 N.W. 302, 303
(Minn. 1940) ("By our constitution the mandate of
establishing a general and uniform system of public schools
was directed to the legislature."). To be sure, we have
long held that matters of educational policy are matters that
fall within legislative authority. Curryer, 25 Minn.
at 5. However, we have also explained that the Education
Clause constitutes "a mandate to the Legislature,"
"not a grant of power." Associated Schs. of
Indep. Dist. No. 63 v. Sch. Dist. No. 83, 142 N.W. 325,
327 (Minn. 1913); see also State ex rel. Smith v. City of
St. Paul, 150 N.W. 389, 391 (Minn. 1914) (describing the
provisions of the Education Clause as "mandates"
that prescribe a "specified duty"). In fact, the
Education Clause is the only section of the Minnesota
Constitution that imposes an explicit "duty" on the
Legislature. See Skeen, 505 N.W.2d at 313.
specific determinations of educational policy are matters for
the Legislature, it does not follow that the judiciary cannot
adjudicate whether the Legislature has satisfied its
constitutional duty under the Education Clause. Deciding that
appellants' claims are not justiciable would effectively
hold that the judiciary cannot rule on the Legislature's
noncompliance with a constitutional mandate, which would
leave Education Clause claims without a remedy. Such a result
is incompatible with the principle that where there is a
right, there is a remedy. See State v. Lindquist,
869 N.W.2d 863, 873 (Minn. 2015) ("The right to a remedy
for wrongs is '[a] fundamental concept of our legal
system and a right guaranteed by our state
constitution.'" (alteration in original) (quoting
Anderson v. Stream, 295 N.W.2d 595, 600 (Minn.
1980))); cf. Associated Schs. of Indep. Dist. No.
63, 142 N.W. at 328 ("The creation of the
obligation carries with it by necessary implication the right
to its enforcement.").
a remedy for Education Clause violations does not necessarily
require the judiciary to exercise the powers of the
Legislature. Appellants stress that their complaint
"does not actually ask the court to institute any
specific policy." Rather, their prayer for relief asks
the district court to find, adjudge, and decree that the
State has engaged in the claimed constitutional violations.
Although appellants have also asked the district court to
permanently enjoin the State "from continuing to engage
in" the claimed constitutional violations and to order
the State to "remedy" those violations, they
"have consistently acknowledged that it is not the
court's function to dictate to the Legislature the manner
with which it must correct its constitutional
essence, appellants' claims ask the judiciary to answer a
yes or no question- whether the Legislature has violated its
constitutional duty to provide "a general and uniform
system of public schools" that is "thorough and
efficient," Minn. Const. art. XIII, § 1, and
"ensure[s] a regular method throughout the state,
whereby all may be enabled to acquire an education which will
fit them to discharge intelligently their duties as citizens
of the republic," Bd. of Educ. of Sauk Ctr., 17
Minn. at 416. To resolve this question, the judiciary is not
required to devise particular educational policies to remedy
constitutional violations, and we do not read appellants'
complaint as a request that the judiciary do so. Rather, the
judiciary is asked to determine whether the Legislature has
violated its ...