A Law Professor Grades the Vergara Decision: It Gets a B-

It should be crystal clear from my two previous posts (here and here)  on the topic that not only do I oppose the recent California Superior Court decision in Vergara v. California, which overturned California statutes guaranteeing “teacher tenure” and layoff by seniority for the state’s K-12 teachers, I have also questioned its legal rationale.  But I’m not an attorney, much less a legal authority.  Now, however, comes UCLA law professor Jonathan Zasloff who, in an interview with the online journal Salon, called the decision “a B- student’s opinion.”  The entire interview is well worth reading, but here’s the “money quote,” so to speak:

I was surprised by the ruling in one major way, which is that, for such a significant decision, it is really poorly reasoned. I can’t put it any other way. Whatever you happen to think of the outcome, either on a policy basis or even on a legal basis, [Judge Treu] seems to have taken a lot of the reasoning out of it; and if you’re a trial court judge … you could say, “Well, I’m a state trial court judge; not too many people are going to pay attention to me; this is my moment in the sun,” [and] you’d think you were going to write the best opinion you could possibly do. But if one of my students gave me this opinion, I’d give it a B-. This is a B- student’s opinion. (And at times I’m an easy grader, so there you go.) …

If [Treu’s] ruling is going to be upheld, and if he’s going to make a case for it, he needs to find a lot of facts. There was a trial here, there was testimony here; but there seemed to be very few facts that the judge explicitly relied on for his decision. So, he says, “Well, we know that there are a lot of grossly inadequate teachers in the system, and we know that at least some of these grossly inadequate teachers are going to go to low-performing schools, so that means that it’s a constitutional violation.” Wait a minute. There are six or seven different steps in there that you’ve got to make. The teachers’ unions argued, “Wait a minute — the reason the teachers might be grossly inadequate is because of the schools that they’re in, not because of the teachers themselves.” You can think that that’s right, you can think that that’s wrong, you can think that that’s true, you can think that that’s false; but it would seem to me that you’ve got to make an argument as to why you think … these teachers are grossly inadequate. What in fact is going on there? What is going on in these schools? That is the kind of thing a trial judge can and should be doing, and the judge here just didn’t do it.

3 thoughts on “A Law Professor Grades the Vergara Decision: It Gets a B-

  1. Pingback: California Appeals Vergara Anti-Tenure Ruling | The Academe Blog

  2. Pingback: AAUP Joins Amicus Brief in Vergara Case | The Academe Blog

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