News & Articles

PJJ Victory for Chicago Public Schools
Published Friday, March 3, 2017

Congratulations to the PJJ team led by Stephen Pugh with the assistance of  Neil Pandey, Sabena Auyeung, and Nicole Behrend (Glenn Weinstein handled the associated bond issue), who brought in a spectacular victory on Monday for our client, Chicago Public Schools. A summary follows:

Challenge To Appointed School Board Rejected:

On February 13, 2017, Judge Elaine Bucklo rejected a challenge by former Governor Patrick Quinn and a group of Chicago residents to Section 34-3 of the Illinois School Code that granted the Mayor of Chicago the sole power to appoint members of the Chicago School Board. The plaintiffs complained that Chicago residents are the only Illinois citizens who cannot vote for members of their School Board. They also argued that an appointed Board should not be allowed to levy taxes without legislative approval. Plaintiffs claimed that the mayoral appointment of Board members violated the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection, Due Process, and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act by suppressing the rights of African Americans and Hispanic citizens in Chicago to elect representatives to their School Board. Pugh, Jones & Johnson defended the Chicago Public Schools in the federal and state lawsuits. In Quinn, et al. v. Board of Education of the City of Chicago, et al., No. 1:2016-cv-09514 (N.D.Ill.2017), Judge Bucklo granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss the federal court action and also denied as moot the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction. In so ruling, Judge Bucklo agreed with the defendants’ position that the plaintiffs have no fundamental right to vote in School Board elections as a matter of law, and the General Assembly could properly treat the Chicago School District with more than 500,000 residents differently than the smaller school districts. Judge Bucklo also dismissed the plaintiffs’ claims that the challenged Section of the School Code deprived the plaintiffs of due process, holding that the Board’s authority to levy taxes is subject to a statutory limit that applies regardless of whether the Board is elected or appointed. 

On February 27, 2017, Judge Michael T. Mullen also rejected the plaintiffs’ challenge to Section 34-3 of the School Code. In the state complaint, the plaintiffs made similar arguments but added that the challenged Section of the School Code violated Chicago’s home rule authority. Judge Mullen dismissed all counts of the plaintiffs’ complaint with prejudice, similarly holding that the plaintiffs do not have a fundamental right to vote in the School Board elections. Judge Mullen also held that the Board’s tax levy authority did not violate due process and that the challenged Section of the School Code did not violate Chicago’s home rule authority.
Judge Bucklo’s Memorandum is available at http://law.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/illinois/ilndce/1:2016cv09514/332113/50/
For media coverage, see:

Cook County Record: http://cookcountyrecord.com/stories/511082431-judge-rejects-ex-gov-quinn-s-lawsuit-challenging-power-of-chicago-mayor-to-appoint-school-board 
Chicago Sun Times: http://chicago.suntimes.com/news/fed-judge-tosses-pat-quinns-lawsuit-over-elected-school-board/ 
Chicago Tribune: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-elected-school-board-lawsuit-met-20170215-story.html