Arkansas Times education reporter Jennifer Barnett Reed:
The Arkansas Supreme Court this afternoon dissolved the temporary restraining order that would have forced the Bryant School District to reopen tiny Paron High School on Aug. 21.
Pulaski County Circuit Judge Jay Moody issued the restraining order on June 29, after a group of Paron parents sued the state Board of Education. The problem, according to the Supreme Court justices, was that the original suit did not name the Bryant School District as a party -- Moody added it on the same day he issued the restraining order -- and so Bryant didn't get the chance to argue its case before Moody ruled.
This doesn't technically mean the case is over -- Moody's original order addressed only the question of whether the case could be decided before the start of school, not whether the Paron parents should prevail on their arguments that they hadn't been given due process and that the bus ride to Bryant High School was excessively long.
Ron Crawford, grandfather of a Paron student and leader of the effort to keep Paron High School open, said he'll be meeting with the group's attorney, Chris Heller, tomorrow morning to decide how to proceed. Many of Paron High's students had already gotten transfers to other school districts.
"As long as we are given due process in the legal system, whatever the ruling comes out, we will respect it," Crawford said. "I don’t intend to give up this battle, period, for Paron or the rest of schools in Arkansas that are subject to current administration of the process."
Text of the court's ruling is available after the jump.
UPDATE (5:50 p.m.): Crawford said the Paron group will request a hearing before Judge Moody tomorrow morning. "We're looking at this as a temporary setback," he said.
The temporary restraining order is dissolved for failure to join the Bryant School District, a necessary party under Ark. R. Civ. P. 19 (Repl. 2006), prior to the issuance of the temporary restraining order. Failure to join the Bryant School District before the temporary restraining order was issued constituted a plain, manifest, clear, and gross abuse of discretion. See King v. Davis, 324 Ark. 253, 920 S.W.2d 488 (1996), Arkansas Game and Fish Comm’n v. Herndon, ____ Ark. ____, ____ S.W.3d____ (Feb. 2, 2006). Accordingly, the petitions for writ of certiorari by the Arkansas State Board of Education, et. al., and the Bryant School District are hereby granted.
ASSOCIATE JUSTICE TOM GLAZE CONCURRING:
The trial court has declared Bryant School District (Bryant) a necessary party and ordered Paron School (plaintiffs) to amend its complaint to join Bryant within ten (10 )days from the court’s entering its TRO on June 29, 2006.
The trial court’s order shows plaintiffs would, (1) suffer irreparable harm if their school is closed prior to a full hearing on plaintiffs’ remaining claims and, (2)would likely succeed on the merits of their claims. Of course, the practical effect also is that the TRO impacts Bryant without affording Bryant the opportunity to proceed through this case with counsel, to call witnesses and present evidence or to cross-examine plaintiffs’ witnesses. On the other hand, Bryant has not been provided a meaningful opportunity to argue before this court the trial court’s ruling that the plaintiffs would not likely succeed on the merits in this case.
In my view, Bryant is an indispensable party, which was not afforded the required due process to respond in this case. Nor was Bryant given reasonable notice, as an adverse party, required under Ark. R. Civ. P. 65(a)(1) and Rule 4 of these rules. Clearly, the trial court was, at the very least, premature when entering its TRO. The trial court attempted to correct the absence of Bryant as a party by ordering Bryant to be made a separate party and giving plaintiffs ten (10) days to amend their complaint joining Bryant. Such trial court directive falls short of correcting the plaintiffs’ mistake in failing to make Bryant a party in this injunction action; again, because it failed to afford Bryant due process and compliance with Rule 65 and 4.
In conclusion, the trial court’s TRO was not a final order appealable under Rule 2 of the Rules of Appellate Procedure - - Civil. Consequently, Bryant and the state’s only remedy is one of a writ of certiorari, which our court grants only when a circuit court acts without jurisdiction or in excess of its jurisdiction, or the face of the record reveals a manifest and gross abuse of discretion, and no other adequate appellate remedy exists. Conner v. Simes, 355 Ark. 42, 139 S.W.3d 476 (2003). Bryant and the state are entitled to a writ of certiorari in this case.
For practical purposes, the result reached by this court might well end this specific litigation without getting to the merits of the issues raised in this case. However, I suspect these issues will arise again - - if not in new litigation, then in the continuing saga of Lake View litigation. Eg. See Lake View Sch. Dist. No. 25 of Phillips Co. v. Huckabee, 2004 WL 1406270 (Ark. Sup. Ct., June 18, 2004).