School-funding lawsuit proves costly to defend at $1.7MPIERRE — Putting up a successful defense against a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of South Dakota’s system for funding public schools wasn’t cheap.
By: Bob Mercer, The Daily Republic
PIERRE — Putting up a successful defense against a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of South Dakota’s system for funding public schools wasn’t cheap.
The expenses total somewhere in the range of $1.7 million to $2.2 million, state Attorney General Marty Jackley said Thursday.
Jackley, in response to a reporter’s question, said there were more than $1.1 million in actual expenses and the equivalent of approximately $600,000 in salary hours for state lawyers.
The cost for state lawyers was based on a rate of $85 per hour. Jackley said they spent about 7,000 hours on the case.
Had private attorneys been used, the base rate would have been $150 per hour, according to Jackley, and would have cost upward of $1.1 million.
Expert witnesses, travel, court reporter fees, exhibits and other items and services cost $410,773. Outside legal counsel who assisted with expert witnesses cost $737,000.
All of the defense expenses are paid from state government accounts.
He said the figures don’t include any initial expenses for the state Department of Education.
The South Dakota Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision Thursday that lawyers for parents who claimed the funding system is unconstitutional failed to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.
School districts seeking more funding originally were behind the challenge.
The high court agreed with the trial decision reached by then-Circuit Judge Lori Wilbur that the system hadn’t been shown to be unconstitutional.
The high court’s decision was written by Justice Judith Meierhenry.
She has now retired and Wilbur was named as her successor.