State aiming to hobble school funding lawsuit

Judge Kevin Dubay

Jacqueline Rabe Thomas/ CT Mirror staff

Judge Kevin Dubay

Attorneys defending the state against a class-action school-funding lawsuit believe the coalition suing the state should be removed as a plaintiff, effectively diminishing the significance of the case.

“The case would be completely different because it wouldn’t be a class action,” Joseph Rubin, associate attorney general, told a Hartford Superior Court judge Tuesday. Without the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding as the plaintiff, “It’s a completely different case and a far, far smaller case.”

The coalition is made up of mayors, parents, education associations and teachers’ unions.

The Connecticut Supreme Court five years ago ruled that children in the state have the right to “suitable educational opportunities” and sent the case to a lower court to decide whether such an education is being provided.

At issue now are emails dating back 10 years. The executive director of the coalition had instructed people to delete their correspondence to avoid its being used during the trial. The attorneys for the state say that behavior — which they believe was pervasive — should make the coalition ineligible to sue the state.

Judge Kevin Dubay seemed to need some convincing Tuesday about the value of any potential deleted emails.

“Did any of those 200 [emails] have anything to do whatsoever with the mertis of the case? The ones I have seen were more of the gosippy nature, about relationships between plaintiffs,” Dubay told the attorneys in the case during a status conference.

The attorneys suing the state said they have hired two companies to recover deleted emails from the four current members of the coalition’s executive board. But the attorney general’s office wants to sift through the emails of anyone who has ever been a member of the coalition, including Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who was a founding member when he was the mayor of Stamford.

“They are not proposing to do an adequate investigation to try and recover [emails] “That is the core of our disagreement,” Rubin told the court.

“That list includes all kinds of boldface names,” said David Rosen, the attorney for the coalition, noting that such an exploration could put off a trial for years.

The judge, who is expecting an update in June on the effort to recover deleted emails from the four current executive board members, set Sept. 15 as a tentative trial date.

“When you people are ready to try this case, I will be ready,” said Dubay.