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Campaign for Fiscal Equity

Mon, Mar 27, 2006

Opponents Marshal False Claims to Sanction State’s Ongoing Defiance of the Constitution

CFE Court Order is Enforceable through Major Penalties, if Necessary

While CFE continues to press the governor and the legislature to abide by last week’s appellate court ruling to comply with the Court of Appeals’ mandate by April 1, some columnists, pundits, and elected officials have been advising lawmakers that the courts are powerless to enforce their orders. This position is erroneous.

“They might as well be calling on the governor and the legislature to scrap our entire constitution and the futures of hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren,” said CFE Executive Director Geri D. Palast.

The claim that courts are powerless to enforce their own rulings contradicts reams of legal precedents. When this position was presented to the three judicial referees in the compliance proceedings last year, the referees -- two former appeals court judges and a distinguished law school dean -- unanimously stated that “The Court also clearly has the authority to enforce its orders through its contempt powers, and to impose sanctions for any such contempt, including fines.” There is not a single case to support the radical proposition that the doctrine of separation of powers allows the legislative and executive branches to simply ignore a definitive court mandate.

“It is the unmistakable duty of the courts to act to uphold the constitution and safeguard our citizens’ rights. This is exactly why the Appellate Division ordered major education funding increases by April 1. Courts in other states have enforced their orders through substantial daily fines, a school shutdown, or even imprisonment of public officials,” said Palast. “We certainly hope and expect that compliance will be achieved shortly in New York without the need to even consider such sanctions. If there is no alternative, the New York courts certainly have the authority and the tools necessary to enforce their orders.”

Parents from across the state march on the Capitol in Albany to show support for CFE.
CFE Litigation CFE v. State of New York
In 2006, after 13 years in the Courts, the New York State Court of Appeals affirmed the right of every public school student in New York to the opportunity for a sound basic education and the state’s responsibility to adequately fund this right, but deferred to the Governor and the Legislature to determine the appropriate amount. more >