Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Zeyen v. Boise District no1

United States District Court, D. Idaho

January 30, 2019

MIKE ZEYEN, et al, Plaintiffs,
v.
BOISE SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 1, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          B. LYNN WINMILL, U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE

         INTRODUCTION

         The Court has before it motions to dismiss filed by defendants. The Court heard oral argument on the motions on January 14, 2019 and took them under advisement. After further review, and based on the analysis below, the Court has decided to grant the motions to the degree they are based on the abstention doctrine, and will stay this litigation pending resolution of the Zeyen appeal in the Idaho Supreme Court.

         LITIGATION BACKGROUND

         This is a class action challenging fees allegedly charged in contravention of the Idaho Constitution. The Plaintiffs, who have students attending schools in the Pocatello and Bonneville School Districts, seek to proceed as class representatives of all patrons - that is, students and parents - in the 115 school districts and charter schools in the state of Idaho. Plaintiffs allege that the fees charged by these school districts violate article IX, § 1 of the Idaho Constitution and constitute a due process violation. They seek declaratory relief, reimbursement of fees charged for the past six years, and certification of a class of plaintiffs and defendants.

         This action was preceded by lengthy litigation in the Idaho state courts. Between 1993 and 2005, a series of five appeals were decided by the Idaho Supreme Court challenging the level and method of funding for Idaho's public schools. In the midst of those appeals, the Idaho Supreme Court remanded the case to the district court to determine the narrow issue of whether the Legislature had provided a means to fund facilities that provide a safe environment conducive to learning, pursuant to the thoroughness requirement of the Idaho Constitution, Article IX, § 1. That constitutional provision imposes a “duty [on] the Legislature of Idaho, to establish and maintain a general, uniform and thorough system of public, free common schools.”

         Following a trial, the district court described, among other things, “the many safety concerns of specific school districts, such as structural problems and fire hazards.” ISEEO v. Idaho, 129 P.3d 1199, 1204 (Id.Sup.Ct. 2005). Evidence showed that “57% of all Idaho school buildings had serious safety concerns.” Id. at 1205. A 1999 report updating a 1993 assessment of facility safety concluded that “53 of the buildings needing serious and immediate attention in 1993 had deteriorated even further.” Id. Based on this and other evidence, the district court concluded that the state funding system “is not adequate to meet the constitutional mandate to establish and maintain a general, uniform, and thorough system of public, free common schools in a safe environment conducive to learning for Idaho's poorest school districts.”

         On appeal, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed that decision but declined to impose any remedy, finding that to be the task of the Idaho Legislature:

We affirm the conclusion of the district court that the current funding system is simply not sufficient to carry out the Legislature's duty under the constitution. While the Legislature has made laudable efforts to address the safety concerns of various school districts, the task is not yet complete. The appropriate remedy, however, must be fashioned by the Legislature and not this Court. Quite simply, Article IX of our constitution means what it says: “[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.” Thus, it is the duty of the State, and not this Court or the local school districts, to meet this constitutional mandate. . . . . In adopting Article IX, the citizens of Idaho placed their trust in the collective wisdom, creativity, and expertise of our legislators, and we do the same. We are firmly convinced the Legislature will carry out its constitutional duties in good faith and in a timely manner. At this juncture, we will not remand the case to the district court, but will retain jurisdiction to consider future legislative efforts to comply with the constitutional mandate to provide a safe environment conducive to learning so that we may exercise our constitutional role in interpreting the constitution and assuring that its provisions are met.

Id. at 1209.

         Since that decision in 2005, plaintiffs have filed three state court actions along with this suit. In Joki v Idaho, 398 P.3d 48 (Id.Sup.Ct. 2017), the plaintiffs initially sued the State and 114 school districts seeking to represent a class consisting of all students currently enrolled in the defendant school districts together with their parents and guardians. Plaintiffs alleged that the State's funding - and specifically the lack of funding that required local districts to impose fees -- violated the Idaho Constitution Article IX, Section I. Later, the plaintiffs narrowed their complaint to seek (1) reimbursement of fees from a single school district (the Meridian District) or the legislature of certain fees imposed by the school district; and (2) a declaratory judgment against the State Defendants that the current system of funding education in Idaho is unconstitutional. The district court dismissed the State and plaintiffs appealed.

         In the appeal to the Idaho Supreme Court, the State defendants argued that the claims against them fell squarely within the terms of the Constitutionally Based Educational Claims Act (CBECA), Idaho Code §§ 6-2201-2216. The CBECA authorizes a patron to sue a local school district for failing to provide constitutionally required educational services, but also states that before a patron can sue the State, the patron must first obtain a ruling from the district court that the local school district is not providing the required educational services and is either unwilling or unable to comply. Id. at 52. The plaintiffs in Joki sued the State without first obtaining this ruling from the district court, and the State defendants argued that the CBECA required that they be dismissed. The Idaho Supreme Court agreed, rejecting plaintiffs' arguments that the CBECA did not apply and that it violated provisions of the Idaho Constitution. Id. at 52-55.

         In a separate action filed in state court - Zeyen v Pocatello/Chubbuck School District - the plaintiff sued a single school district seeking to represent a class of all patrons of that single school district, alleging that the fees charged by the district were unconstitutional under Idaho's constitution. The district court held that the CBECA barred recovery for fees improperly paid. When plaintiff tried to amend his complaint to add a claim for a Due Process violation, the district court denied the amendment on the ground that it came too late in the litigation.

         The plaintiff in Zeyen appealed the district court's ruling in August of 2018, and the appeal is pending at this time. Another action - Wood v Bonneville School District - also challenges fees charged by a single school district. Plaintiffs seek to represent a class consisting of all patrons of that single school district, and have challenged the fees as violating both the Idaho Constitution and the U.S. Constitution (5th and 14th Amendments). That ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.