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Joki v. State

Supreme Court of Idaho

April 27, 2017

RUSSELL JOKI, individually and as Guardian and Guardian Ad Litem of PEYTON LEE GIFFORD-JOKI, a minor of age 16 enrolled at Meridian High School; and SARAH C. HOLT, individually and as Parent and Guardian Ad Litem of SABRINA HOLT and SOPHIA HOLT, children enrolled in Chief Joseph Elementary School in Meridian, Idaho; each Plaintiff in their own behalf and in behalf of all parents, grandparents, and guardians ad litem of all school age children in grades K-12 in the Meridian Joint School District #2, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
THE STATE OF IDAHO, THE IDAHO STATE LEGISLATURE, THE IDAHO STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION, and THE HONORABLE TOM LUNA, Superintendent of Public Instruction, Defendants-Respondents, and MERIDIAN JOINT DISTRICT #2, Defendant.

         2017 Opinion No. 35

         Appeal from the District Court of the Fourth Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Ada County. Hon. Richard D. Greenwood, District Judge.

         The district court's dismissal of the State Defendants is affirmed. Appellant's request for costs and attorney's fees is denied.

          The Huntley Law Firm, PLLC, Boise, attorneys for appellants. Robert Huntley argued.

          Hon. Lawrence G. Wasden, Idaho Attorney General, Boise, attorney for respondents. Leslie Hayes argued.

          JONES, Justice

         I. Nature of the Case

         This appeal arises from Russell Joki's action challenging the constitutionality of: (1) fees charged to students of Meridian Joint District #2[1]; and (2) the statewide system of funding Idaho's public schools. Russell Joki and sixteen other individuals (hereinafter collectively referred to as "Joki") initiated the suit against the State of Idaho, the Idaho State Legislature, the Idaho State Board of Education, and the Superintendent of Public Instruction (hereinafter collectively referred to as the "State Defendants"), all 114 Idaho public school districts, and one charter school. The district court granted the State Defendants' motion to dismiss. On appeal, Joki argues that the district court erred in dismissing the State Defendants.

         II. Factual and Procedural Background

         On October 1, 2012, Joki filed the initial complaint against the State Defendants, 114 public school districts, and one charter school. Joki sought to proceed as a representative of a class consisting of all students currently enrolled in the defendant school districts, together with their parents or guardians. In the initial complaint, Joki requested reimbursement for the damages that he and other class members suffered, and continued to suffer, as a result of the unconstitutional fees charged by the defendant school districts. On October 9, 2012, Joki filed an amended class action complaint, adding a second cause of action against the State Defendants. Specifically, Joki requested a declaratory judgment that Idaho's current system of funding education is unconstitutional. Joki cited article IX, section 1 of the Idaho Constitution as the basis for his claims, which provides, in pertinent part: "[I]t shall be the duty of the legislature of Idaho, to establish and maintain a general, uniform and thorough system of public, free common schools." Idaho Const. art. IX, § 1.

         On October 30, 2012, the State Defendants filed a motion to dismiss, which the district court granted on March 19, 2013. On the same day, 53 of the 114 school districts were voluntarily dismissed by Joki. On March 27, 2013, Joki submitted a motion to alter or amend the order dismissing the State Defendants. On June 27, 2013, Joki, Meridian Joint District #2, and the State Defendants stipulated that Joki may file a second amended complaint, with the provision that Meridian Joint District #2 and the State Defendants reserved the right to seek dismissal, summary judgment, and resist class certification. The district court granted Joki's motion for leave to file a second amended complaint. On July 16, 2013, Joki filed the second amended complaint, which sought: (1) reimbursement from Meridian Joint District #2 or the legislature of certain fees imposed by the school districts; and (2) a declaratory judgment against the State Defendants that the current system of funding education in Idaho is unconstitutional.

         On July 17, 2013, the State Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the second amended complaint. In an accompanying memorandum, the State Defendants argued that the claims against them fell squarely within the terms of the Constitutionally Based Educational Claims Act, Idaho Code sections 6-2201-2216 (hereinafter referred to as the "CBECA"), and should be dismissed according to the provisions therein. In response, Joki argued that the CBECA did not require the dismissal of the State Defendants. Specifically, Joki asserted that according to this Court's holding in Idaho Schools for Equal Education Opportunity v. State, 140 Idaho 586, 97 P.3d 453 (2004) (hereinafter referred to as "ISEEO IV"), the CBECA was unconstitutional as applied to his second cause of action.[2]

         On November 27, 2013, the district court issued a memorandum decision and order regarding the State Defendants' motion to dismiss. The district court found that the CBECA applied to Joki's claim for fee reimbursement and required the dismissal of the State Defendants. The district court reasoned that the CBECA applied to Joki's claim because, under the CBECA, a district court may issue any order that it determines would assist the local school district in administering constitutionally required educational services.[3] Further, the district court reasoned that the State Defendants could only be added as defendants after the following occurred: (1) a bench trial; (2) a finding that a school district failed to provide constitutionally required educational services; (3) the issuance of a corresponding remedial order; and (4) continued noncompliance by a school district. Joki did not comply with the aforementioned procedural requirements; accordingly, the district court granted the State Defendants' motion to dismiss.

         Next, the district court analyzed Joki's request for a declaratory judgment that the current system of funding education in Idaho is unconstitutional. The district court acknowledged Joki's argument that in ISEEO V this Court found the system of funding school facilities in Idaho was unconstitutional. However, the district court held that Joki's complaint failed to state a claim to enforce ISEEO V. The district court emphasized that ISEEO V addressed the narrow issue of funding for school facilities, not the education system as a whole. Because Joki's complaint did not allege inadequate school facilities, the district court concluded that Joki failed to state a claim to enforce ISEEO V. Further, the district court reasoned that even if Joki were to allege facts within the purview of this Court's holding in ISEEO V, the CBECA would nevertheless apply and require Joki to first exhaust the remedies under the CBECA before pursuing action against the State Defendants. In sum, the district court held that the CBECA governed all of Joki's claims, as brought against the State Defendants, and required dismissal.

         On June 27, 2014, the district court denied Joki's motion for class certification due to "concerns over the suitability of [Joki] as representative[] of the proposed class." Ultimately, on December 7, 2015, the district court entered judgment in favor of Joki against Meridian Joint District #2 in the amount of $85. Joki appealed the dismissal of the State Defendants.

         III. ...


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