Michigan Settlement Attempts to Moot Potential En Banc Review of Right-to-Literacy Ruling
Last night the State of Michigan and students from Detroit public schools reached a settlement agreement in a case concerning whether those students had a constitutional right of “access to literacy.” News reports indicate the settlement includes a legislative request by Gov. Whitmer for $94.5 million in literacy funding for Detroit schools, $280,000 for seven student plaintiffs, and creation of two task forces focused on educational quality.
As previously reported on this blog, a split Sixth Circuit panel found in Gary B. v. Whitmer that the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause protected a right to a basic minimum education, which included a “foundational level of literacy.”
The settlement with students comes shortly after the Michigan Legislature moved to intervene and tendered a petition for rehearing en banc. The court has not yet ruled on the Legislature’s motion to intervene. Additionally, the Michigan State Attorney General, on behalf of two of the State Board of Education members who are defendants in the suit, petitioned for rehearing en banc, but, in an unusual filing, some defendants moved to withdraw the Rehearing petition filed by the same office on behalf of the other defendants. The parties indicated in a joint filing to the clerk that the student plaintiffs plan to move to dismiss the case in its entirety as moot.
Eagle-eyed appellate lawyers may have spotted a lurking question whether U.S. Bancorp Mortgage Co. v. Bonner Mall Partnership and the Munsingwear doctrine have any implications for the precedential status of the panel decision under these circumstances. We will stay tuned to see whether that question is asked or answered in the coming days.