State Constitution Provisions Focus of Shelby Schools Trial

Attorneys for both the Memphis City Council and the Shelby County Commission contend in legal briefs filed last week, that the 2011 law clearing the way for new special school districts in Shelby County violates the state constitution.
The trial starts this week and the Commercial Appeal has a setup story outlining the constitutional arguments.
(A previous ruling by Judge Hardy Mays) dismissed challenges by the council and commission that Norris and Todd’s Public Chapter 1 was illegal because it was special legislation applying only to Shelby County. But Mays specifically asserted he was dealing only with the law’s first two clauses in making that determination; those related specifically to the timing and process of transferring administration and operations of a special school district like MCS to the county.
Mays declined to consider challenges to the third clause in Public Chapter 1 — (b)(3) — because he said they were not yet “ripe.” The clause says “after the effective date of the transfer of administration” that “the restrictions imposed on the creation of municipal school districts and special school districts shall no longer apply in such county.”
Mays wrote in an order in July that (b)(3) was now, indeed, ripe.
Laws passed by the state in 1982 and 1998 created a ban on the creation of any new special or municipal districts in any of the state’s 95 counties. The commission and council are now asserting the (b)(3) clause is invalid because it seeks to “contravene” or “repeal” that more general ban only in very specific cases in a certain few counties.
They also intend to prove the 2011 and 2012 laws represent “special” legislation in violation of Article 11, Section 8 of the state constitution because it grants special privileges to the eight Tennessee counties where special school districts exist but not to the other 87.
“The Challenged Acts suspend the general law of Tennessee for a select few,” write the commission attorneys from the firm of Baker Donelson.
They also claim a violation of Article 11, Section 9 in the acts because they did not require countywide local approval despite being “local in effect” to only Shelby County.

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