No blog that purports to keep up with the Ninth Court of Appeals can fail to discuss the biggest publicity case of the spring: l'affaire Beaumont Independent School District. The reporting of Dan Wallach of the Beaumont Enterprise has been insightful and enlightening. The School District is governed by a board elected from seven single-member districts. The history of the present Beaumont ISD reflects tension between blacks and whites over more than a century. My high school girlfriend was a white West Brook High School student, like most of the students then, but West Brook is a grittier, majority-black school now. Like every U.S. governmental entity governed by representatives from geographical districts, BISD had to realign its districts to comport with the results of the 2010 census. Like every governmental entity redistricting where the rights of minorities have been abrogated in the past, the federal justice department must approve proposed changes before they are implemented to make sure they are not racist. This is called preclearance. The new districts were submitted for preclearance so that the regular election could take place on May 11. The terms are for four years and are staggered. Three trustees, each black-- Zenobia Bush, Woodrow Reece, and Terry Williams-- won their seats in 2011. Lawyers Michael Getz, Michael J. Truncale, and David Vann de Cordova, Jr. reviewed Texas Education Code sec. 11.052. It appeared to require all trustees to run for reelection after redistricting. They advised their client sitting white trustee Michael Scott Neil-- who also had been elected in 2011-- and their other clients, nontrustees Marcelino Rodriguez, Donna Jean Forgas, and Linda Marie Wiltz Gilmore-- one black, one white and one Hispanic-- to quietly file for election by March 1. They did. Bush, Reece, and Williams did not. That's when the lawyers, along with lawyer Hubert Oxford IV, and the nontrustee candidates sprung the trap by seeking and gaining a mandamus order from the Beaumont Court of Appeals requiring BISD to hold an election without Bush, Reece and Williams's being candidates on March 18, 2013. BISD tried to stay the order but the appeals court justices held firm on March 27, 2013. Neil got an order from the Beaumont Court of Appeals forcing BISD to put him on the ballot for May 11. The federal department of justice got a federal district court to issue a temporary restraining order abeying the election until a three-judge panel can consider a temporary injunction there, and possibly abeying the election until the DOJ can finish its preclearing decision. This means there'll be no election May 11 unless the DOJ makes its decision much faster than observers would expect. BISD has cancelled the May 11 election.
No springtime for race relations in Jefferson County this year.
In re Marcelino Rodriguez, Donna Jean Forgas, and Linda Marie Wiltz Gilmore, No. 09-13-00115-CV, (Tex. App.--Beaumont, Mar. 18, 2013) (orig. proceeding).
In re Michael Scott Neil, No. 09-13-00144-CV, (Tex. App.--Beaumont, March 28, 2013) (orig. proceeding).