Vergara v. State

Decision Date14 April 2016
Docket NumberB258589
Citation209 Cal.Rptr.3d 532
CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
Parties Beatriz VERGARA, a Minor, etc., et al., Plaintiffs and Respondents, v. STATE of California et al., Defendants and Appellants; California Teachers Association et al., Interveners and Appellants.

Kamala D. Harris, Attorney General, Edward C. DuMont, Solicitor General, Julie Weng–Gutierrez, Assistant Attorney General, Janill L. Richards, Gregory D. Brown and Aimee Feinberg, Deputy Solicitors General, Susan M. Carson and Nimrod P. Elias, Deputy Attorneys General, for Defendants and Appellants the State of California; Edmund G. Brown, Jr., in his official capacity as Governor of California; the California Department of Education; the State Board of Education; and Tom Torlakson, in his official capacity as State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Rothner Segall & Greenstone, Glenn Rothner, Pasadena; Altshuler Berzon, Michael Rubin, Stacey M. Leyton, Eileen B. Goldsmith and P. Casey Pitts, San Francisco, for Interveners and Appellants California Teachers Association and California Federation of Teachers.

Reed Smith, Paul D. Fogel, Raymond A. Cardozo, Thomas A. Evans and Kevin M. Hara, San Francisco; Jennifer W. Bezoza, Berkeley, Travis Silva and Dana M. Isaac, San Francisco, for Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, Education Law Center, Equal Justice Society, Southern Poverty Law Center and Asian Americans Advancing Justice—Los Angeles as Amici Curiae on behalf of Appellants.

Catherine L. Fisk and Erwin Chemerinsky, Venice, University of California, Irvine Law for Constitutional Law Professors as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Appellants.

Stroock & Stroock & Lavan, Steven D. Atlee, Christine E. Ellice, Los Angeles, Charles G. Moerdler, Alan M. Klinger, Beth A. Norton, Dina Kolker, David J. Kahne and Nathan H. Stopper ; David Strom for American Federation of Teachers, AFL–CIO, as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Appellants.

Judith A. Scott, James & Hoffman and Claire P. Prestel for Service Employees International Union as Amicus on behalf of Appellants; Matthew S. Blumin and Michael Artz for American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Appellants; Michael R. Clancy for California School Employees Association as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Appellants; Kathryn Sheffield for California Faculty Association as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Appellants.

Persyn Law & Policy and Mary Kelly Persyn ; Ronald A. Peterson Law Clinic, Charlotte Garden, Lorraine Bannai and Robert Chang for California Teachers, American–Arab Anti–Discrimination Committee, Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law & Equality and American Association of University Professors as Amici Curiae on behalf of Appellants.

Donahue & Goldberg and Sean H. Donahue ; Schwartz, Steinsapir, Dohrmann & Sommers and Henry M. Willis, Los Angeles, for Kevin Beiser, Joan Buchanan, Ciro C. Calderon, Rob Collins, Tom Conry, Jennifer Freemon, Matt Haney, Michael Harrelson, Richard Hoy, Sarah Kirby–Gonzalez, Rob Nunez, Erik Ortega, Cecilia Perez, Annemarie Randle–Trejo, Claudia Rossi, Ryan Anthony Ruelas, Noelani Sallings, Shamann Walton, Steve Waterman and Steve Zimmer as Amici Curiae on behalf of Appellants.

Alice O'Brien, Eric A. Harrington, Kristen Hollar and Derrick Ward for National Education Association as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Appellants.

Keker & Van Nest, Steven A. Hirsch, San Francisco, and Katherine M. Lloyd–Lovett for Education Deans, Professors and Scholars as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Appellants.

Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Theodore B. Olson, Joshua S. Lipshutz, Kevin J. Ring–Dowell, San Francisco, Theodore J. Boutrous, Jr., Marcellus A. McRae, Theane D. Evangelis, Los Angeles, and Enrique A. Monagas for Plaintiffs and Respondents.

Kaufhold Gaskin, Steven S. Kaufhold, San Francisco, Janathan B. Gaskin and Quynh K. Vu for Students Transforming Education, Jan Bauer, Priscilla Davis, Dan Tick, Paula Tillotson, Neva Sullaway and, Ann Wellman as Amici Curiae on behalf of Respondents.

Kronick, Moskovitz, Tiedemann & Girard, Christian M. Keiner and Chelsea Olson for California County Superintendents Education Services Association as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Respondents.

Sidley Austin, Michelle B. Goodman, Los Angeles, James D. Arden, Peter D. Kauffman for National Council on Teacher Quality and The New Teacher Project as Amici Curiae on behalf of Respondents.

Shook, Hardy & Bacon, Tristan L. Duncan, Laurence H. Tribe, Tammy B. Webb, San Francisco, for Constitutional Scholars; Rachel F. Moran, Michael J. Connell, Dawinder S. Sidhu as Amici Curiae on behalf of Respondents.

Lubin Olson & Niewiadomski, Jonathan E. Sommer and Kyle A. Withers, San Francisco, for Betheny Gross, Jane Hannaway, Cory Koedel and Jonah Rockoff as Amici Curiae on behalf of Respondents.

Arnold & Porter, Douglas A. Winthrop and Christopher T. Scanlan, San Francisco, for Students First as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Respondents.

Horvitz & Levy, Jeremy B. Rosen, Robert H. Wright and Emily V. Cuatto, Encino, for Silicon Valley Leadership Group, California Business Roundtable, Foundation for Excellence in Education, Orange County Business Council, California Chamber of Commerce and Valley Industry & Commerce Association as Amici Curiae on behalf of Respondents.

Jenner & Block, Kenneth K. Lee, L. David Russell and Andrew G. Sullivan, Los Angeles, for Education Trust—West, Oakland Alliance of Black Educators, Los Angeles Urban League, Black Alliance for Education Options as Amici Curiae on behalf of Respondents.

Dannis Woliver Kelley and Sue Ann Salmon Evans, Long Beach; Lozano Smith, Michael Smith, Dulcinea Grantham, Walnut Creek, Keith J. Bray, Long Beach, and Joshua R. Daniels for Education Legal Alliance of the California School Boards Association as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Respondents.

White & Case, Bryan A. Merryman, Elliott E. Dionisio, Los Angeles, and J. Taylor Akerblom for Governors Arnold Schwarzenegger and Pete Wilson as Amici Curiae on behalf of Respondents.

Chandler & Shechet, Aaron Nathan Shechet and Leigh Anne Chandler, Beverly Hills, for Adam Kuppersmith, Karen Sykes–Orpe and Katherine Czujko as for Amici Curiae on behalf of Respondents.

Fagen Friedman & Fulfrost, Roy A. Combs, David Mishook and Alejandra Leon, Oakland, for Association of California School Administrators as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Respondents.

Proskauer Rose, Lois D. Thompson and Irina Constantin, Los Angeles, for Current and Former School Superintendents John White, Hanna Skandera, Paul Pastorek, Kevin S. Huffman and Cami Anderson as Amici Curiae on behalf of Respondents.


In this lawsuit, nine students who were attending California public schools sued the State of California and several state officials, seeking a court order declaring various provisions of California's Education Code unconstitutional. According to plaintiffs, these provisions, which govern how K–12 public school teachers obtain tenure, how they are dismissed, and how they are laid off on the basis of seniority, violate the California Constitution's guarantee that all citizens enjoy the “equal protection of the laws.” (Cal. Const., art. I, § 7, subd. (a).) The matter went to trial. After hearing eight weeks of evidence, the trial court issued a ruling declaring five sections of the Education Codesections 44929.21, subdivision (b), 44934, 44938, subdivisions (b)(1) and (b)(2), 44944, and 449551 —unconstitutional and void. Defendants have appealed this judgment.

We reverse the trial court's decision. Plaintiffs failed to establish that the challenged statutes violate equal protection, primarily because they did not show that the statutes inevitably cause a certain group of students to receive an education inferior to the education received by other students. Although the statutes may lead to the hiring and retention of more ineffective teachers than a hypothetical alternative system would, the statutes do not address the assignment of teachers; instead, administrators—not the statutes—ultimately determine where teachers within a district are assigned to teach. Critically, plaintiffs failed to show that the statutes themselves make any certain group of students more likely to be taught by ineffective teachers than any other group of students.

With no proper showing of a constitutional violation, the court is without power to strike down the challenged statutes. The court's job is merely to determine whether the statutes are constitutional, not if they are “a good idea.” (McHugh v. Santa Monica Rent Control Bd. (1989) 49 Cal.3d 348, 388, 261 Cal.Rptr. 318, 777 P.2d 91.) Additionally, our review is limited to the particular constitutional challenge that plaintiffs decided to bring. Plaintiffs brought a facial equal protection challenge, meaning they challenged the statutes themselves, not how the statutes are implemented in particular school districts. Since plaintiffs did not demonstrate that the statutes violate equal protection on their face, the judgment cannot be affirmed.

I. California's educational system

The California Constitution requires [t]he Legislature [to] provide for a system of common schools.” (Cal. Const., art. IX, § 5.) Pursuant to this command, the state is obligated to provide a free public education. ( Los Angeles Unified School Dist. v. Garcia (2013) 58 Cal.4th 175, 182, 165 Cal.Rptr.3d 460, 314 P.3d 767.) [M]anagement and control of the public schools [is] a matter of state[, not local,] care and supervision....’ (Butt v. State of California (1992) 4 Cal.4th 668, 681, 15 Cal.Rptr.2d 480, 842 P.2d 1240 (Butt ).)

The California Constitution also provides for the incorporation and organization of school districts by the Legislature. (Cal. Const., art. IX, § 14.) Local school districts, as agents of the state, are responsible for...

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2 books & journal articles
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    • Washington University Law Review Vol. 97 No. 4, April 2020
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