A lawyer for Paul Vallas has submitted a 47-page brief arguing for the Connecticut Supreme Court to overturn a lower court ruling that he lacks the proper legal certification to serve as superintendent of schools. In a brief filed on Wednesday, appellate specialist Steven Ecker, hired by the Board of Education to represent Vallas, urges the state’s highest court to reverse Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis. Read the legal brief here.
Last week the Supremes overruled Bellis’ decision to boot Vallas from the job while the case is under appeal. Retired Superior Court Judge Carmen Lopez, a Bridgeport resident, filed the legal complaint against Vallas. The Supremes are expected to hear oral arguments in the matter in mid September. In his preliminary statement Ecker argues:
Paul Vallas, a nationally recognized schools administrator who has held city-wide school superintendent/CEO positions in post-Katrina New Orleans, in Chicago, and in Philadelphia over the past fifteen years, has been ousted, by writ of quo warranto, as Bridgeport’s superintendent of schools based on the trial court’s determination that he is not properly certified as a superintendent by the Connecticut Department of Education. This result is highly counterintuitive for numerous reasons, first and foremost because the certification at issue is subject, by statute, to an express waiver provision specifically intended to make it easier to bring exceptionally talented out-of-state superintendent candidates to Connecticut. See General Statutes § 10-157(c).2 Such a waiver was issued for Mr. Vallas on June 17, 2013, by the state’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor. See PI. Ex. 15 (A207). The waiver explicitly sets forth the Commissioner’s determination that Mr. Vallas (1) had successfully completed his statutory probationary period, and (2) is “exceptionally qualified” for the position of superintendent, which are the two predicates for waiver under Section 10-157(c). Part I of this brief explains why the trial court had no legal authority to second-guess the Commissioner’s waiver determination in a quo warranto action. Part II then explains why the trial court’s construction and application of the certification-waiver statute is erroneous as a matter of law. Reversal is required on either or both grounds.