Chief Justice: No Agreement Yet On School Funding

CLEVELAND (AP) - The Ohio Supreme Court remains deadlocked on the state's 11-year-old school-funding lawsuit, Chief Justice Thomas Moyer said.

If the court can't resolve the impasse by January, attorneys may have to reargue the case, Moyer told The Plain Dealer for a story Friday.

After delivering his annual state-of-the-judiciary speech to Ohio judges Thursday, Moyer said the court has been unable to reach a consensus.

The seven-member court had made three rulings in the 1991 lawsuit. It twice declared the school-funding system unconstitutional and ordered an overhaul. Ohio relies on local property taxes and state funding to pay for education.

In a third decision a year ago, the court ruled 4-3 that the system would be constitutional if the state spent more money on it.

After estimates of that spending hit $1.2 billion annually, the state asked the court to reconsider. The court agreed. A mediation attempt died in March.

Two court seats are being contested in the Nov. 5 election. A new judge will be elected to replace retiring Justice Andy Douglas. Current Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton is fighting to keep her seat.

If the deadlock remains unbroken, a majority on the new court could ask attorneys to reargue the case. Otherwise, any new justice would be asked to review all legal documents and the court would vote again, Moyer said.

"Traditionally, we give lawyers the option if we can't get to a resolution," Moyer said. "I hope we do not have to get there."

William Phillis, executive director for the coalition of school districts suing the state, said a decision had been expected soon after the settlement talks collapsed. Now, no one believes a ruling will be issued before the election, he said.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)