Lobato v. State, No. 08SC185.

Docket NºNo. 08SC185.
Citation218 P.3d 358
Case DateOctober 19, 2009
CourtSupreme Court of Colorado
218 P.3d 358
Anthony LOBATO, as an individual and as parent and natural guardian of Taylor Lobato and Alexa Lobato; Denise Lobato, as an individual and as parent and natural guardian of Taylor Lobato and Alexa Lobato; Jaime Hurtado and Coralee Hurtado, as individuals and as parents and natural guardians of Maria Hurtado and Evan Hurtado; Janet L. Kuntz, as an individual and as parent and natural guardian of Daniel Kuntz and Stacey Kuntz; Pantaleon Villagomez and Maria Villagomez, as individuals and as parents and natural guardians of Chris Villagomez, Monique Villagomez and Angel Villagomez; Linda Warsh, as an individual and as parent and natural guardian of Adam Warsh, Karen Warsh and Ashley Warsh; Elaine Gerdin, as an individual and as parent and natural guardian of N.T., J.G. and N.G.; Dawn Hartung, as an individual and as parent and natural guardian of Q.H.; Paul Lastrella, as an individual and as parent and natural guardian of B.L.; Woodrow Longmire, as an individual and as parent and natural guardian of Tianna Longmire; Steve Seibert and Dana Seibert, as individuals and as parents and natural guardians of Rebecca Seibert and Andrew Seibert; Olivia Wright, as an individual and as parent and natural guardian of A.E. and M.E.; Herbert Conboy and Victoria Conboy, as individuals and as parents and natural

[218 P.3d 359]

guardians of Tabitha Conboy and Timothy Conboy; Terry Hart, as an individual and as parent and natural guardian of Katherine Hart; Larry Howe-Kerr and Kathy Howe-Kerr, as individuals and as parents and natural guardians of Lauren Howe-Kerr and Luke Howe-Kerr; John T. Lane, as an individual; Jennifer Pate, as an individual and as parent and natural guardian of Ethan Pate and Evelyn Pate; Robert L. Podio and Blanche J. Podio, as individuals and as parents and natural guardians of Robert Podio and Samantha Podio; Tami Quandt, as an individual and as parent and natural guardian of Brianna Quandt, Cody Quandt and Levi Quandt; Brenda Christian, as an individual and as parent and natural guardian of Ryan Christian; Toni L. McPeek, as an individual and as parent and natural guardian of M.J. McPeek, Cassie McPeek and Michael McPeek; Christine Tiemann, as an individual and as parent and natural guardian of Emily Tiemann and Zachary Tiemann; Paula VanBeek, as an individual and as parent and natural guardian of Kara VanBeek and Antonius VanBeek; Larry Haller and Pennie Haller, as individuals and as parents and natural guardians of Kelly Haller and Brandy Haller; Tim Hunt and Sabrina Hunt, as individuals and as parents and natural guardians of Shannon Moore-Hiner, Eris Moore, Darean Hunt and Jeffrey Hunt; Mike McCaleb and Julie McCaleb, as individuals and as parents and natural guardians of Rebekka McCaleb, Layne McCaleb and Lynde McCaleb; Todd Thompson and Judy Thompson, as individuals and as parents and natural guardians of Garson Thompson and Tarek Thompson; Doug Vondy and Denise Vondy, as individuals and as parents and natural guardians of Kyle Leaf and Hannah Vondy; Brad Weisensee and Traci Weisensee, as individuals and as parents and natural guardians of Joseph Weisensee, Anna Weisensee, Amy Weisensee and Elijah Weisensee; Stephen Topping, as an individual and as parent and natural guardian of Michael Topping; Donna Wilson, as an individual and as parent and natural guardian of Ari Wilson, Sarah Patterson, Madelyn Patterson and Taren Wilson-Patterson; David Maes, as an individual and as parent and natural guardian of Cherie Maes; Debbie Gould, as an individual and as parent and natural guardian of Hannah Gould, Ben Gould and Daniel Gould; Lillian Leroux, as an individual and as parent and natural guardian of Ari Leroux, Lillian Leroux, Ashley Leroux, Alexandria Leroux and Amber Leroux; Theresa Wrangham, as an individual and natural guardian of Rachel Wrangham and Deanna Wrangham; Alamosa School District, No. RE-11J; Centennial School District No. R-1; Center Consolidated School District No. 26 JT, of the Counties of Saguache and Rio Grande and Alamosa; Creede Consolidated School District No. 1 in the County of Mineral and State of Colorado; Del Norte Consolidated School District No. C-7; Moffat School District No. 2, in the County of Saguache and State of Colorado; Monte Vista School District No. C-8; Mountain Valley School District No. RE 1; North Conejos School District No. RE 1J; Sanford School District No. 6, in the County of Conejos and State of Colorado; Sangre De Cristo School District, No. RE-22J; Sargent School District No. RE-33J; Sierra Grande School District No. R-30; and South Conejos School District No. RE 10, Petitioners
v.
The STATE of Colorado; Colorado State Board of Education; Dwight Jones, in his official capacity as Commissioner of Education of the State of Colorado; and Bill Ritter, in his official capacity as Governor of the State of Colorado, Respondents.
No. 08SC185.
Supreme Court of Colorado, En Banc.
October 19, 2009.

[218 P.3d 362]

Alexander Halpern LLC, Alexander Halpern, Michelle Murphy, Jennifer Albert Morgan, Kathleen J. Gebhardt LLC, Kathleen J. Gebhardt, Boulder, Colorado, Attorneys for Petitioners.

John W. Suthers, Attorney General, Daniel D. Domenico, Solicitor General, Antony B. Dyl, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Carey Taylor Markel, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Denver, Colorado, Attorneys for Respondents.

Kutz & Bethke LLC, William P. Bethke, Lakewood, Colorado, Attorneys for Amicus Curiae Colorado League of Charter Schools.

Colorado Association of School Boards, Kathleen Sullivan, Denver, Colorado, Attorneys for Amici Curiae Colorado Association of School Boards and Colorado Association of School Executives.

Colorado Education Association, Martha R. Houser, Bradley C. Bartels, Denver, Colorado, Attorneys for Amicus Curiae Colorado Education Association.

Kelly Garnsey Hubbell ± Lass LLC, Martha M. Tierney, Denver, Colorado, Attorneys for Amicus Curiae Education Justice at Education Law Center.

Morrison & Foerster LLP, Steven M. Kaufmann, Osman E. Nawaz, Denver, Colorado, Colorado Center on Law and Policy, Edwin S. Kahn, Special Counsel Denver, Colorado, Attorneys for Amici Curiae Colorado Lawyers Committee and the Colorado Center on Law and Policy.

Davis Graham & Stubbs LLP, Kenzo S. Kawanabe, Terry R. Miller, Denver, Colorado, Attorneys for Amicus Curiae Great Education Colorado.

Maldef, David G. Hinojosa, Nina Perales, San Antonio, Texas, Holme, Roberts & Owen, LLP, Manuel L. Martinez, Denver, Colorado, Attorneys for Amici Curiae Padres Unidos, and the Multicultural Education, Training & Advocacy, Inc.

Justice BENDER delivered the Opinion of the Court.


I. Introduction

In this appeal, we review the court of appeals' decision that the plaintiff school districts lack standing to sue the state, and that plaintiff parents, who challenge the adequacy of our public school funding system under the education clause of the Colorado Constitution, presented a nonjusticiable political question. Lobato v. State, 216 P.3d 29 (Colo. App.2008). We reverse the court of appeals' holdings that the plaintiff school districts lack standing to sue the state and that the plaintiffs have alleged a nonjusticiable claim.

Plaintiffs are composed of two groups. The first group consists of parents from eight school districts across the state acting in their individual capacities and on behalf of their school age children ("plaintiff parents"). The second group consists of fourteen school districts in the San Luis Valley ("plaintiff school districts"). Plaintiffs brought suit against the State of Colorado, the Colorado State Board of Education, the Commissioner of Education, and the Governor (collectively "state defendants"), alleging constitutional deficiencies in Colorado's public school financing system. Plaintiffs claim that the system, because it is underfunded and allocates funds on an irrational and arbitrary basis, violates the education clause's mandate that the General Assembly provide a "thorough and uniform" system of public education. See Colo. Const. art. IX, § 2. Plaintiffs further claim that the local school districts have standing to challenge the adequacy of the state's public school financing system because severe underfunding and irrational disbursement of funds undermine the districts' interest in local control over educational instruction and quality. See Colo. Const. art. IX, § 15.

Without taking evidence, the trial court held that plaintiff school districts lacked standing to bring their claims, but did not address the standing of the plaintiff parents. The trial court also dismissed the plaintiffs' complaint for failure to state a claim. The

218 P.3d 363

court of appeals affirmed the district court's holding that plaintiff school districts lacked standing, but held that plaintiff parents did have standing. Lobato v. State, 216 P.3d at 34-35. The court of appeals also affirmed the dismissal of plaintiff's complaint for failure to state a claim. Lobato v. State, 216 P.3d at 35-42.

The plaintiff school districts appeal their dismissal for lack of standing. Additionally, both the plaintiff parents and the plaintiff school districts appeal the holding that their claims present a nonjusticiable political question. Because this case was dismissed before either side presented evidence, our precedent requires that we accept the plaintiffs' factual allegations as true.

As a threshold matter, we examine whether the court of appeals should have addressed the school districts' standing. Because none of the parties contest that the plaintiff parents possess standing, we hold that it was unnecessary for the court of appeals to decide this issue, and reverse the court of appeals on this issue.

Next, we examine whether the plaintiffs present a justiciable claim for relief. The education clause, article IX, section 2 of the Colorado Constitution, states in relevant part that "the general assembly shall . . . provide for the establishment and maintenance...

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37 practice notes
  • Citizens for Strong Sch., Inc. v. Fla. State Bd. of Educ., No. SC18-67
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • January 4, 2019
    ...system of public education' does not ‘unduly infring[e] on the legislature's policymaking authority.’ " (quoting Lobato v. State , 218 P.3d 358, 363 (Colo. 2008) ) ); Conn. Coalition for Justice in Educ. Funding, Inc. v. Rell , 295 Conn. 240, 990 A.2d 206, 210 (2010) ("[T]his court has a ro......
  • William Penn Sch. Dist. v. Pa. Dep't of Educ., No. 46 MAP 2015.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • September 28, 2017
    ...233, 877 P.2d 806 (1994) (implicit); Serrano v. Priest, 18 Cal.3d 728, 135 Cal.Rptr. 345, 557 P.2d 929 (1976) (implicit); Lobato v. State, 218 P.3d 358 (Co. 2009) (explicit); Haridopolos v. Citizens for Strong Schools, Inc., 81 So.3d 465 (Fla. Ct. App. 2011), review denied, 103 So.3d 140 (F......
  • Freedom from Religion Found., Inc. v. Hickenlooper, No. 10CA2559.
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • May 10, 2012
    ...People, 198 P.3d 108, 111 (Colo.2008), and an allegation that a plaintiff does not have standing raises such a challenge, Lobato v. State, 218 P.3d 358, 368 (Colo.2009).¶ 41 The Governor contends on appeal that we should not reach the merits because FFRF and the taxpayers do not have standi......
  • Taxpayers for Pub. Educ. v. Douglas Cnty. Sch. Dist., Nos. 11CA1856 & 11CA1857
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • February 28, 2013
    ...6, and the court did not address standing. Likewise, the plaintiffs' claims in both Lobato v. State, 216 P.3d 29 (Colo.App.2008), rev'd, 218 P.3d 358 (Colo.2009), and Boulder Valley Sch. Dist. RE – 2 v. Colo. State Bd. of Educ., 217 P.3d 918 (Colo.App.2009), alleged violations of the state ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
37 cases
  • Citizens for Strong Sch., Inc. v. Fla. State Bd. of Educ., No. SC18-67
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • January 4, 2019
    ...system of public education' does not ‘unduly infring[e] on the legislature's policymaking authority.’ " (quoting Lobato v. State , 218 P.3d 358, 363 (Colo. 2008) ) ); Conn. Coalition for Justice in Educ. Funding, Inc. v. Rell , 295 Conn. 240, 990 A.2d 206, 210 (2010) ("[T]his court has a ro......
  • William Penn Sch. Dist. v. Pa. Dep't of Educ., No. 46 MAP 2015.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Pennsylvania
    • September 28, 2017
    ...233, 877 P.2d 806 (1994) (implicit); Serrano v. Priest, 18 Cal.3d 728, 135 Cal.Rptr. 345, 557 P.2d 929 (1976) (implicit); Lobato v. State, 218 P.3d 358 (Co. 2009) (explicit); Haridopolos v. Citizens for Strong Schools, Inc., 81 So.3d 465 (Fla. Ct. App. 2011), review denied, 103 So.3d 140 (F......
  • Freedom from Religion Found., Inc. v. Hickenlooper, No. 10CA2559.
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • May 10, 2012
    ...People, 198 P.3d 108, 111 (Colo.2008), and an allegation that a plaintiff does not have standing raises such a challenge, Lobato v. State, 218 P.3d 358, 368 (Colo.2009).¶ 41 The Governor contends on appeal that we should not reach the merits because FFRF and the taxpayers do not have standi......
  • Taxpayers for Pub. Educ. v. Douglas Cnty. Sch. Dist., Nos. 11CA1856 & 11CA1857
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • February 28, 2013
    ...6, and the court did not address standing. Likewise, the plaintiffs' claims in both Lobato v. State, 216 P.3d 29 (Colo.App.2008), rev'd, 218 P.3d 358 (Colo.2009), and Boulder Valley Sch. Dist. RE – 2 v. Colo. State Bd. of Educ., 217 P.3d 918 (Colo.App.2009), alleged violations of the state ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • STARE DECISIS AND INTERSYSTEMIC ADJUDICATION.
    • United States
    • Notre Dame Law Review Vol. 97 Nbr. 3, March 2022
    • March 1, 2022
    ...(plurality opinion). See, e.g., Neb. Coal. for Educ. Equity & Adequacy v. Heineman, 731 N.W.2d 164, 176 (Neb. 2007); Lobato v. State, 218 P.3d 358, 377 (Colo. 2009) (en banc); Wilson v. Fallin, 262 P.3d 741, 749 (Okla. (95) Commonwealth v. Thomas, 507 A.2d 57, 60-61 (Pa. 1986) (applying......

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