March 7, 2016
To Assist With an Expedited Hearing, the State Filed its Brief 99 Days Early
Carson City, NV – On Friday, Nevada Attorney General Adam Paul Laxalt filed an opening brief in the Nevada Supreme Court asking to reverse a lower court’s ruling that halted Nevada’s Education Savings Account (ESA) program. The ESA program, designed to give more educational options to families in Nevada, provides funds to parents and students who wish to pursue their educational needs outside of the public school system, including through private schooling, tutoring, test taking, textbooks or online learning. At the request of AG Laxalt, the deadline for filing the states’ opening brief was expedited from 120 days to 21 days.
Two lawsuits challenged Nevada’s ESA program. The filed brief in this case addresses the second lawsuit backed by the Education Law Center headquartered in Newark, New Jersey. The lower court in this suit rejected two of the plaintiffs’ constitutional challenges, but agreed with plaintiffs that the ESA program impermissibly spends funds that the legislature has earmarked for public schools. Nevada’s brief argues that the ESA program does not, in fact, rely on money set aside for the public schools, and that Nevada’s Constitution broadly empowers the Legislature to “encourage education” by “all suitable means,” including the ESA program. The brief also contrasts the plaintiffs’ inability to demonstrate any concrete harm that they will experience if the ESA program goes into effect. It also details the very real harm that thousands of Nevada families are now experiencing as a result of the delay and uncertainty imposed when the lower court stopped the ESA program.
“This injunction has disrupted more than 4,000 Nevada families who hoped to benefit from this innovative program,” said Laxalt. “While I believe the harm cited by the plaintiffs is pure conjecture at best, my Office continues to work diligently to get a final answer on the constitutionality of ESAs as quickly and efficiently as possible.”
Plaintiffs filed their complaint in this case in September, one month after the first ESA challenge was filed in Las Vegas. Motions to dismiss and to preliminary enjoin the program were quickly briefed and argued in both cases, and district court in this case issued a decision in January 2016. AG Laxalt filed an appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court that same month, and requested an expedited briefing schedule, which the Court granted. Briefing will be concluded in early April, more than three months in advance of a normal briefing schedule, and the Court will set a date for arguments thereafter. The parties are waiting for a decision from the district court in the other ESA challenge in Las Vegas.
The filed brief is attached.