Court of Appeals Blocks Judge Lee’s Order in Leandro Case
Court of Appeals: Judge Lee’s order to withdraw funds from the treasury would “devastate the clear separation of powers”
Court of Appeals: Judge Lee’s order “threaten[s] to wreck the carefully crafted checks and balances that are the genius of our system of government”
The North Carolina Court of Appeals blocked Judge David Lee’s order to the executive branch to withdraw $1.7 billion from the state treasury over the objections of the legislature.
As part of the 27-year-old education funding lawsuit commonly referred to as “Leandro,” unelected county-level trial judge David Lee ordered the state controller and state treasurer to withdraw $1.7 billion from the General Fund. Judge Lee’s order required the funds to go towards programs and policies outlined in an out-of-state consultant’s report paid for by the Cooper Administration.
In its opinion, the Court of Appeals concluded Judge Lee’s order “would devastate the clear separation of powers between the Legislative and Judicial branches and threaten to wreck the carefully crafted checks and balances that are the genius of our system of government.”
The Court of Appeals continued, “Simply put, [Judge Lee’s] conclusion that it may order petitioner to pay unappropriated funds from the State Treasury is constitutionally impermissible and beyond the power of the trial court.”
Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham) said, “The people of North Carolina through their elected legislators, not an unelected county-level trial judge, decide how to spend tax dollars. Rather than accepting responsibility for lagging achievement and outright failure, the Leandro parties insist that the pathway to student improvement is always the simple application of more money.
Sen. Berger continued, “Judge Lee, education special interests, and the Cooper Administration hatched this unconstitutional scheme to funnel $1.7 billion in extra money to a failed education bureaucracy; this Court has rightly called them on it. The legislature will continue to follow the Constitution and advance policies that enhance opportunities for student achievement, empower parents, and fund students, not failing bureaucratic systems.”