The Connecticut Supreme Court has dismissed the lawsuit challenging whether Bridgeport Superintendent Paul Vallas is qualified to lead the the state’s largest public school district.

The decision comes one week after Vallas announced he plans to step down to run for lieutenant governor in Illinois.

The lawsuit challenged whether Vallas had completed a qualified school leadership program, even though the State Department of Education signed off on the independent study he undertook at The University of Connecticut.

Justice Flemming L. Norcott Jr. wrote the unanimous opinion, saying that the decision on the quality of the program is one for the department, not the courts. He also wrote that the plaintiffs should have appealed to the department for the validity of the program before seeking judicial relief.

Legal action questioning Vallas’s authority to hold office “may not be used to challenge the underlying administrative determinations made by the state board and the commissioner qualifying the defendant to serve as a school superintendent,” the 18-page decision reads.

“Whether a court evaluating the qualifications of a public officer in [such an] action may examine the merits of an administrative licensing or certification decision that has rendered that person qualified to hold the office is a question of first impression in Connecticut. Numerous sister state decisions, however, demonstrate the existence of a century old common-law rule that, absent allegations of fraud, a quo warranto action may not be used to mount a collateral attack on a governmental agency’s licensing or certification decision that has qualified a public officer to hold his or her position,” the opinon continues.

The courts are “not to be used to second-guess the discretion and motivations of appointing officials,” Norcott continues. “That determination, which underlay the commissioner’s ultimate decision to waive certification requirements for the defendant, was a licensing decision squarely committed to the state board and the commissioner by the legislature, and the plaintiffs failed to avail themselves of appropriate avenues to raise this challenge to the defendant’s qualifications in the appropriate administrative forum.” 

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Jacqueline Rabe Thomas

Jacqueline was CT Mirror’s Education and Housing Reporter, and an original member of the CT Mirror staff, joining shortly before our January 2010 launch. Her awards include the best-of-show Theodore A. Driscoll Investigative Award from the Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists in 2019 for reporting on inadequate inmate health care, first-place for investigative reporting from the New England Newspaper and Press Association in 2020 for reporting on housing segregation, and two first-place awards from the National Education Writers Association in 2012. She was selected for a prestigious, year-long Propublica Local Reporting Network grant in 2019, exploring a range of affordable and low-income housing issues. Before joining CT Mirror, Jacqueline was a reporter, online editor and website developer for The Washington Post Co.’s Maryland newspaper chains. Jacqueline received an undergraduate degree in journalism from Bowling Green State University and a master’s in public policy from Trinity College.

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