Normally when your political opponent does something stupid, you stay out of the way and let them wallow in the limelight.
However, two crazy lawsuits in the last 24 hours are miraculously taking Rep. Karl Oliver off the political front page.
First, the Southern Poverty Law Center is back on the case of attempted legislation by frivolous litigation. Led by Will Bardwell (son of Patsy “Ma” Brumfield of “politically neutral” Initiative 42 fame and also an alumnae of “non-partisan” Mississippi Today) the SPLC has filed a lawsuit against the state of MS to ask a federal court to resuscitate a rather hazy interpretation of a Confederate era state law called the “Readmission Act” regarding a uniform system of free public schools. The complaint itself mostly reads like a 10th grade history paper. The plaintiffs, according to news(ish) reports are black mothers of children in Jackson Public Schools and Yazoo County Schools. One of the mothers of a JPS student stated, “. . .this sends a horrible message to my son that the type of education he gets depends on the color of his skin and the race of the other children in his school. What a horrible lesson to teach a 6-year-old.” For the record, JPS demographics show that over 97% of its K-12 attendees are African American.
Jackson Public Schools funding is largely self-determined based on local tax collections and formula based funding from the state that dozens of other school districts rely. The lawsuit says the state fails to “maintain a system of revenue (taxation or otherwise) . . . that provides an education . . . on par with the education being afforded to white children.” According to Empower MS, JPS students have a per capita spend of $9,399.81/year, which is substantially more than most private schools in the same market charge per student and in the middle tier of public spending per student throughout the state. Most all districts in the state operate on funding between $8,000/student/year on the low side to $11,000/student/year on the high end. Now, also keep in mind that Jackson Public Schools has now and has had an African American Superintendent (now making over $200K/year) for 20 years. It has had and continues to have an African American mayor and majority city council for over 20 years. It’s kind of difficult to make a legal case that local schools funded with largely local money in a city that is over 80% black with a black mayor, majority black city council, majority black school board discriminates against kids for being . . . black.
Not to be outdone attorney Carlos Moore has filed a lawsuit that seeks to get a federal judge to order the US Attorney to investigate whether or not a crime has been committed for two legislators and one highway patrolman “liking” Oliver’s status on Facebook. The complaint also wants to force the defendants to write (and we’re not kidding) a book report.
These lawyers shouldn’t lose any sleep at night trying to figure out why people hate trial lawyers for filing frivolous stuff like this. They almost always fail but result in no negative consequences for those that file them. Their efforts would be better focused on electing people to enact their version of policy versus sucking resources away from taxpayers to defend useless self-serving lawsuits. It’s probably just coincidence that in the intervening 150 years (144 of them under Democratic rule) that the SPLC didn’t magically divine this particular legal argument even though we spend tens if not hundreds of millions more on education by the state as we did just a decade ago. Also it’s curious how they square this most recent argument with trying to disenfranchise overwhelmingly black families trying to better their education through Charter schools by attempting to gut the underlying law through another frivolous lawsuit.
Historically, attorneys (particularly in Mississippi) have done an abysmal job of regulating themselves and providing professional consequences for this sort of foolishness. So far, there’s been no discernible backlash from anyone in the legal community (or of course the press) admonishing this sort of wasteful abuse of the Court’s time that could otherwise be used to meaningfully pursue justice. No one should be holding their breath waiting for that kind of reaction.