Pattis: War Of Attrition Begins In Bridgeport School Case

With a court hearing scheduled today, Norm Pattis, the attorney for two elected Board of Education members, files his latest commentary about control over city schools.

The war of attrition has already set in on the Bridgeport school board case. Notwithstanding the 6-1 decision of the Connecticut Supreme Court declaring the state’s ouster of elected school board members to be unlawful, the state board still remains in power. Apparently it intends to govern by inertia for as long as it can.

Just this afternoon, the legion of lawyers involved in the case were ordered to appear before Judge Agati in the Waterbury Superior Court at 10:30 a.m. (Thursday). The topic could be nothing other than the Supreme Court’s direction to him to order a special election to fill the vacant seats on the board, the seats that were not filled when the state cancelled the November elections and told the residents of Bridgeport that they were too stupid to elect their own school board.

Within hours, counsel for the state board of education notified all concerned that the trial court lacked the jurisdiction to act. After all, a Practice Book Rule permits parties to file motions for reconsideration and clarification. The board, apparently, is confused. It did not understand the Supreme Court’s decision. I knew the Justices were too kind the pinstriped pirates running the schools. It wants to attack the decision by indirect means, and enjoy the offices it filled with hand-picked, unelected board members in the meantime. This is in sharp contrast to the 96-hour heist the board engaged in during July 2011, when elected board members were deposed.

A couple of us argued back and forth about whether there should be a hearing of any sort tomorrow. I argued that there should be. Time was of the essence. Government by inertia is wrong. The defendants, who have been found to have broken the law, are entitled to no delays. If they think delay is required, let them ask the Supreme Court for it.

Huff, I postured. Puff, the state board’s lawyer responded.

The trial court judge did not back down. We are ordered to appear tomorrow. The lawyers for the defendants just didn’t have the courage to say to the trial court what the logic of their position demanded: In the absence of authority to appear, we refuse to attend. They know how to spell nominal compliance with the law when it suits them.

Then a court clerk offered an olive branch. Tomorrow is not a hearing. No, no way. It is a mere “informational session” with the judge, whatever that is.

The state board dropped its objection to attending. If it’s not a hearing, well, I guess we’ll show, seemed to be the message.

Not to be outdone, a lawyer for the City of Bridgeport joined the fray after it was over. Here’s an excerpt from his email: “The City defendants intend to exercise all rights and remedies available to them before the Supreme Court–which presently retains exclusive jurisdiction in this matter–and object to any substantive proceedings before the Superior Court at this time. I will, however, be in attendance at the informational session scheduled for 10:30 tomorrow morning. Thank you for your attention to this matter.”

Yes, there is an educational crisis in the Park City. But it ain’t the school kids who are in need of remedial work. What of the city’s lawyers? We won’t attend a hearing, but we will attend an informational session. That’s all right with us. Just serve milk and cookies. Of course, the state board appears to be in no position to offer remedial education: Its lawyer is serving up the same sour gruel.

Expect a bitter fight throughout the spring and summer to seat an elected board. Yes, the Supreme Court has ruled, but its ruling is not self-enforcing. Only in Connecticut do we let a school board selected by a means in flagrant violation of the law retain power indefinitely because it is good for the kids. It’s sort of like letting a bank robber hold the stolen cash because his children have come to depend upon him for support.

Only in Bridgeport? Not if Gov. Dannel Malloy has its way. He wants the same sorry story told in cities throughout the state. It’s going to be a long spring and summer, I predict. I doubt elected officers will hold their seats before Labor Day. Lawyers for those who seized power on the board by unlawful means will see to it.



  1. In defense of the state board, they are continuing to act because that is what the Supreme Court clearly and directly ordered them to do: continue to act until a new Board is elected.

    That said, the Governor and the Mayor are continuing the outrageous behavior that began with their secret meetings and the midnight coup that deprived Bridgeport of an elected school board.

    Now, it appears that having failed to convince the Supreme Court they weren’t required to follow the law, they are getting ready to ask the legislature to, in effect, set aside the Supreme Court decision.

    Their position is simple. We want what we want and the law (and the voters) be damned.

    OK Lennie, where do our legislators (and legislative candidates) stand on this power grab?

    1. Phil, with the nominations coming up it would be my guess they will all go along with the powers that be; otherwise no nomination and they would be forced to primary for their seats.

      1. If people are serious about this, they need to hold legislators’ (and candidates’) feet to the fire and make sure legislators know there will be a political price to pay for going along with the Governor and the Mayor. Unless you are prepared to back up the talk with action, it’s just hot air.

  2. There is no doubt in my mind the school board fight is all about money. It’s not about the kids, it’s not about the teachers, it’s not about the curriculum. This has gone to the state level because now all the politicians want to get in on the money fest.
    The audacity of these political assholes who do not want to go to a court hearing tomorrow but will go to an informational meeting. If I were the judge I would hold the hearing and whoever does not show up will be issued a tough-shit chit.
    I don’t like who is on the council, let’s have Hartford replace them and start over. If the politicians can wipe out a duly elected school board why not the council? Maybe we can also have Hartford replace the mayor while they are at it.

  3. *** Were there any other cases in America like this “Zombieland” political debacle concerning change for a city’s school system, Lennie? *** ONE STEP FORWARD, TWO STEPS BACK! ***

    1. First, you need an education and fiscal experience. Bridgeport’s legislative delegation (with the exception of Auden Grogins) has no business experience. None of the other members have had to be fiscally responsible for their own actions and are, therefore, just taking up space in Hartford.
      TERM LIMITS at ALL levels of government!!!

        1. And that’s head and shoulders over any of the other legislators from Bridgeport. If she doesn’t generate fees she doesn’t get paid. Being a lawyer is all about getting paid. None of the others have any such responsibility.

  4. Auden Grogins is the worst of the Bridgeport’s legislative delegation because she was on the Bridgeport Board of Education and did NOTHING. Where was her “business experience” then and where was her leadership then?

  5. As a member of the Education Committee Rep. Grogins is in a good position to make her constituents’ feelings known. Where does she stand? Will she step up or buckle under to the Mayor and the Governor?

    1. At least she has the ability to become a judge. None of the other legislators could qualify. She won’t buckle and she beat the endorsed candidate to get to where she is.

  6. *** Winning an election doesn’t make you politically qualified, legal degree or not! It’s what you’ve done for your constituents and the city in general during your climb up the local public service ladder, no? *** Is it really about “me” or the “community” you’re supposed to represent? ***


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