Page 3


Austin I N THE LARGE mass-over-void lobby north of the Texas Supreme Court Chamber, the careful observer, arriving early on days scheduled for oral argument on the Edgewood v. Kirby case, begins to notice certain patterns in the behavior of litigants and other interested parties. Always, one of the first to arrive is Edgewood school superintendent Jimmy Vasquez, who appears just about the time the first sunlight begins to filter through the glass east wall of the building. “I can brief just as well as Al [Kauffman]” Vasquez joked on the last Wednesday in November as he walked through the lobby on toward one of four or five chairs in the corridor that leads to the State Law Library. Shortly after Vasquez comes Demetrio Rodriguez, also from San Antonio. The retired sheetmetal worker is both an Edgewood plaintiff and was the name plaintiff in a similar federal lawsuit that made it as far as the U.S. Supreme Court in the early 1970s. San Antonio attorney Al Kauffman, lead counsel for the plaintiffs, arrives later, usually with a new haircut and never with the beard he sometimes wears. Kauffman will join Vasquez for a moment, respond to reporters’ questions by reminding them that he doesn’t intend to argue the case through the media, engage in some friendly conversation, and retire to prepare his argument. Dave Richards and Rick Gray, hometown attorneys for the plaintiff intervenors, a group of property-poor districts which joined the original plaintiffs, will arrive later and proceed directly to the court chamber. “I’ve done this for so long that I know everybody’s clothes,” Donna Blevins of the Equity Center, an advocacy group for poor school districts, said of the school-finance trials and legislative hearings. “I know what’s in people’s closets.” Later, Education Commissioner Bill Kirby will arrive and wait in the lobby, often answering reporters’ questions. Then comes Kevin O’Hanlon, the Texas Education Agency general counsel, who until recently, when he left the attorney general’s staff, represented the state and Dr. Kirby. 0′ Hanlon, who seems to be the only remaining true believer, will remain in the lobby. Though he doesn’t exactly argue the case through the media, O’Hanlon is more forthright than Kauffman or any of the attorneys on the other side. Toni Hunter, the assistant attorney general who replaces O’Hanlon as lead counsel for the state and who doesn’t seem so fervent in her belief in the state’s cause arrives later. She is the only new face in the lineup \(and someone should sell programs to students of government who have followed the legal and legislative contests conducted Committee Chair Ernestine Glossbrenner and the committee clerk Ann Costilow, Corpus Christi Senator Carlos Truan, and Frank Herrera, the San Antonio lawyer who is the national Chair of the Mexican American Legal which is funding and coordinating the lawsuit. Cyndi Krier, probably the most enlightened Republican in the Senate, will show up, as will a dozen Democratic House members. And always, House education policy expert Paul Colbert of Houston. No one from Governor Bill Clements’s office ever seems to make it to these proceedings, and John Culberson, the Republican state representative who usually holds court in the lobby, pitching a constitutional amendment to validate the current inequitable system, has at last dropped out. At 8:30 everyone except the justices will file into the chamber, at 9:00 a clerk will say “Please stand. Oyez, oyez, oyez, the Supreme Court of Texas is now in session, pursuant to adjournment,” and by 11:00 all will be back in the lobby, where TV, radio, and newspaper reporters will, for about 30 minutes, cluster around Vasquez, O’Hanlon, Kirby, and Kauffman for their appraisals of the morning’s proceedings. Kevin will talk, Al will remind reporters that he’s not going to argue the case in the newspapers, and then he will answer questions, and the crowd will thin out. Now and again, someone interviews Demetrio Rodriguez. Lawyers arguing a case before an appeals court routinely advise reporters that it’s not possible to predict the outcome of a case based on questions asked by the justices. That might hold true for lawyers, but considering the questions asked from the bench during the November 28 appeal hearing, the court’s behavior is predictable. For more than an hour on November 28, attorneys for the state faced eight justices Franklin Spears was absent due to ill health whose questions ranged from skeptical to hostile. It quickly became obvious that the court will rule with District Judge Scott McCown, who held that the state’s system of financing public education, even as reformed by a bill passed on the third day of a sixth of six special legislative sessions held last summer, is unconstitutional. For the position that the Legislature and Governor Bill Clements left them to defend, Hunter and O’Hanlon ought to consider filing c .b ..T…. server DECEMBER 7, 1990 VOLUME 82, No. 24 FEATURES Peace Talk Jim Driscoll Interview 6 Class Warfare By Maury Maverick 12 Parochial Senators By Dan Carney 13 DEPARTMENTS Dialogue 2 Editorial 3 Political Intelligence 14 Social Cause Calendar 16 Books and the Culture Fragments of the West By James Hoggard 17 Rebellious Lit By Michael King 18 Mourning in America By Steven Kellman 19 Paradise Lost By Steven Kellman -21 Afterword Obscenity and Art By Andrei Codrescu 23 Cover photo by Alan Pogue: Edgewood School Superintendent Jimmy Vasquez meets with the press outside the Supreme Court Chamber. a public-policy malpractice suit. The Edgewood plaintiffs, who filed their suit in nowretired Judge Harley Clark’s court in 1984, claimed that because of disparities in local property wealth, one million children in Texas public schools are denied the education guaranteed them by their state’s constitution. Wealthy districts could, by increasing slightly their property tax rates, generate large sums of money to spend on education. Property-poor districts, mean EDITORIALS Impatient Justices THE TEXAS OBSERVER 3