by Max Brantley
As Slydog promised, Roy Brooks' law firm has filed a motion to intervene in the mediation directed by the Little Rock School Board to settle John Walker's appeal of the order declaring the district desegregated.
It's more a racial and political polemic than it is a legal argument. The democratically elected School Board is not acting in the district's interest, the motion argues, because, well, the intervenors don't like the decisions. The intervenors know what's best for the district, thank you very much. The board, the motion says, is "dominated" by John Walker. An election cannot come soon enough, the motion says, to rectify this awful situation. (The awfulness being, essentially, that black folks -- with a stated interest in black children -- are running the school district now and not good white folks as God always intended.)
The Williams and Anderson firm represents a retired Methodist minister, Ed Matthews; a Hall High teacher; a parent, and a couple of other district residents.
I, too, am opposed to giving Walker a contractual role in School District affairs for years to come as a sort of super district monitor. But it's laughable to make a legal claim that the School Board can be found at fault for overriding the recommendation of its lawyer, Chris Heller, in pursuing mediation on the idea. I don't think they need to mediate a case they won, either. But until the case is over, it isn't over. For the better part of the last half-century, the School Board went along with legal advice that was proved wrong time and again in court appeals.
It is laughable, too, to see the intervenor's lawyer, Jess Askew bemoan the evil "influence" of an outside party on the School District. Where was his legal intervention when his valued client, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette publisher Walter Hussman, worked out a secret deal, put in place in an illegal manner, to try out one of his pet projects in the schools with the secret approval of the then-white Board majority and Hussman's toady, Supt. Roy Brooks? Preparing legal briefs to fight anybody who might find out and object, most likely. But white folks were in charge then, not the black "gang," as Hussman's editorialists put it so often, so that was OK, along with other acts of cronyism in which Brooks engaged.
And once again, the folks who bemoan the district's presence in court have taken another action certain to prolong court time and inflate legal expenses.
This poisonous battle badly needs a peacemaker. Neither side has offered one and now comes even a man of the cloth to heighten the fight and sharply define it on racial grounds. It will produce just the sort of bloody results you'd expect from a pitched battle.
This intervention purports to represent a class of all students, employees, residents, taxpayers. Count me out. Particularly distance me from a brief that suggests there is only one correct viewpoint to the notion of whether the school district is unitary. And count me out even more on the breathtaking argument -- encouraged by a recent decision of the Roberts Supreme Court -- that, in so many words, achievement of black students is no longer a valid ground to guide the School Board.
The black majority has done a poor job in assuring all district parents and taxpayers that they'll govern fairly and with a concern for all interests. The other side is no better. A pox on them both and their lawyers, too.