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  • Writer's pictureSave SBISD

In win for SBISD, unexpected events postpone trial indefinitely.

It has been a while, so please allow us to reintroduce ourselves.


We are Save SBISD, a group of stakeholders who live, work, teach, own property or attend school in SBISD. Our purpose since June 2021 has been:

  • To keep you updated on potential changes to SBISD governance,

  • To support Spring Branch ISD and its Trustees in this fight, and,

  • To provide actionable steps to help you prevent disenfranchisement

We have not updated you much recently because there has been little to report. The cogs of the courthouse do, it seems, turn quite slowly. If you want to refresh yourself on everything that has happened to date, you can read through our archives here. Oldest posts are at the bottom.

 

At long last, two and a half years since the lawsuit was filed by Barry Abrams in June 2021, the trial of Elizondo vs. SBISD was scheduled to start just 5 days from today (next Monday, December 4th. 2023).


Our pencils were sharpened, our suits had been pressed, and we were preparing to head to the courthouse next Monday to watch the proceedings and report the outcomes back to you.


However, a series of events began to unfold last week which may lead to what could be the most unpredictable outcome of the trial imaginable.


Nine days ago, on November 20th, 2023, the US Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals published its opinion on Arkansas State Conference NAACP, et al. v. Arkansas Board of Apportionment. et al.


NAACP vs. Board of Apportionment was brought alleging violations of the Voting Rights Act, the same claims that Barry Abrams and Ms. Elizondo allege in Elizondo vs. SBISD.


According to Reuters, the Eighth Circuit ruled that NAACP did not have standing to sue Board of Apportionment, instead finding that only the United States Government could bring such a case to court. Specifically, the Eighth Circuit found that the Voting Rights Act does not allow for a "private right of action", which would prevent individuals (like Ms. Elizondo) direct access to the courts.


Save SBISD has spoken with attorneys familiar with the ruling and they say this is the first time an appellate court has ruled that individuals do not have a right to private action. Other appellate courts, prior to this ruling, have held that individuals did have such a right, which is why cases similar to Elizondo vs. SBISD have been tried in the past.


But with the Eighth Circuit's ruling on November 20th, the Federal Appellate Courts are now in conflict with each other. This understandably confuses the lower courts as to whether a case should be tried, or not.


Two days ago, Monday, November 27th, the District Court Judge for Elizondo vs. SBISD issued this order calling for a hearing "to consider the effect" of the Eighth Circuit's ruling a week ago:



That hearing occurred today. The minutes of the hearing show that: 1) Monday's trial of Elizondo vs. SBISD was canceled, and 2) the parties are to check in with the Court from time to time, in perpetuity.


We were not in the courtroom, but we interpret these facts as follows:


1) The lower Court is not interested in adjudicating an issue for which the plaintiff may not have standing due to the now conflicting rulings of the various Appellate Courts.


2) Cancelation of the trial (as opposed to postponement) signals that there is no clear timeline when this standing issue will be resolved. The perpetual nature of the follow ups support this conclusion.


3) Based on conversations with legal authorities, the likely venue for deconfliction on the issue of standing is the United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS), which works on a slow or indefinite timeline.


Therefore, we conclude that this is a completely favorable event because:


A) The status quo (At-Large elections) is preserved for the foreseeable future.


B) The SCOTUS could moot the question of Elizondo vs. SBISD with a single ruling.


C) If SCOTUS does grant standing to Ms. Elizondo and Barry Abrams at some point in the future, SBISD remains in the same legal position it was yesterday, but with time on our side to establish more electoral facts in support of our defense.


So, today was a pivotal day for the preservation of At-Large governance in SBISD. Perhaps it was the final legal say on the matter. If not, please trust that Save SBISD will be back to you with updates on the issue, however far in the future those events may come.


If, in fact, today turns out to be the end of this particular governance dispute, please know this will not be the last you hear from Save SBISD. We intend to use our reach and credibility to keep readers updated on other critical issues within our beloved community.


As always, follow us on Twitter here and subscribe here. You can always email us at halsey@savesbisd.org.

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