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Judge Mays’ ruling did not declare municipal schools unconstitutional

By Bill Short

Monday night was the last time the current Millington Board of Aldermen conducted a meeting with Interim Mayor Linda Carter in the center seat.

Millington Interim Mayor Linda Carter said this week that U.S. District Judge Samuel “Hardy” Mays’ ruling did not declare municipal schools unconstitutional.

Carter made the statement Monday night during the regular monthly meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen while reciting a “very brief, concise and specific summation” of Mays’ Nov. 27 ruling.

She said the judge only ruled that municipal schools cannot be created before the scheduled merger of Memphis City and Shelby County schools in August 2013.

Mays ruled that Public Chapter 905, enacted by the Tennessee General Assembly, is unconstitutional, because it violates Article XI, Section 9 of the Tennessee Constitution.

That section prohibits legislation that is local in effect to one particular county.

Consequently, all actions taken under the authority of Chapter 905 are void, including the Aug. 2 referenda to authorize municipal schools and the Nov. 6 school board elections.

Mays reserved ruling on whether two statutes lifting the ban on municipal schools pass constitutional muster under the Tennessee Constitution. He has ordered the parties involved to submit additional briefs on this issue by Dec. 27.

The trial of a lawsuit charging that Chapter 905 violates the U.S. Constitution was scheduled to begin on Jan. 3, 2013, but it has been postponed, with no new trial date set. The suit claims that the law violates the Equal Protection Clause and would lead to racially segregated school districts.

Carter said the final determination of whether municipal schools can be created in the future will depend on the judge’s rulings on lifting the ban on them and an adjudication of the equal protection/racial discrimination claims.

For the time being, she concluded, the suburban municipalities can do nothing except wait for those rulings and deal with any new laws that the state legislature might enact after it convenes next month in Nashville.

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December 2012
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