FORT SMITH SCHOOL DISTRICT; GREENWOOD SCHOOL DISTRICT; ALMA SCHOOL DISTRICT; AND VAN BUREN SCHOOL DISTRICT, APPELLANTS
DEER/MT. JUDEA SCHOOL DISTRICT, APPELLEE
APPEAL FROM THE PULASKI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. NO. 60CV-10-6936. HONORABLE CHRISTOPHER CHARLES PIAZZA, JUDGE.
Thompson and Llewellyn, P.A., by: William P. Thompson and James M. Llewellyn, Jr., for appellants.
John C. Fendley, Jr. P.A., by: Clay Fendley; and Lewellen & Associates, by: Roy C. " Bill" Lewellen, for appellees.
PAUL E. DANIELSON, Associate Justice.
Appellants Fort Smith School District; Greenwood School District; Alma School District; and Van Buren School District (collectively " Fort Smith" ), appeal from the circuit court's order denying their motion to intervene as a matter of right in the litigation of appellee Deer/Mt. Judea School District (" Deer/Mt. Judea" ). The sole point on appeal is that the circuit court erred in denying intervention as a matter of right. This court has previously recognized a right to appeal from the denial of a motion to intervene as a matter of right under Arkansas Rule of Appellate Procedure-Civil 2(a)(2). See Duffield v. Benton Cnty. Stone Co., Inc., 369 Ark. 314, 254 S.W.3d 726 (2007). We affirm the circuit court's order.
The instant litigation stems from Deer/Mt. Judea's suit alleging inequities in the
State's school-funding practices. In its original complaint, Deer/Mt. Judea, on its own behalf and on behalf of its students and taxpayers, sought to enjoin actions by the State that Deer/Mt. Judea claimed violated state law and the Arkansas Constitution and would inevitably result in the closure of the district's schools. Specifically, Deer/Mt. Judea claimed that the State had acted contrary to state law and the constitution " by failing to provide small, remote schools adequate funding and by closing small, remote schools without considering whether their students will be denied a substantially equal opportunity for an adequate education due to excessive transportation time." Deer/Mt. Judea prayed for a variety of relief, including (1) a declaration that the State's school-funding system was inequitable and inadequate; (2) a declaration that the State's education system was inequitable and inadequate; (3) an injunction directing the State to comply with its constitutional mandates such as fully funding and implementing a system for evaluating and improving student achievement, fully funding and implementing a system for professional development, adopting a statewide system of teacher compensation to attract and retain teachers in small and remote schools, establishing a maximum transportation time for students and a process for identifying those students, removing transportation funding from foundation funding and adopting a funding system specifically for the transportation of students, removing teacher-retirement and teacher-health-insurance funding from foundation funding and paying those costs directly on behalf of the districts, and adopting rules and regulations to better enable a district unable to raise monies for its portion of facilities maintenance to pay its portion; (4) an injunction prohibiting the closure of small, remote schools and consolidating or annexing small, remote districts until the State has remedied the constitutional violations alleged; (5) a declaration that section 32 of Act 293 of 2010 constituted local or special legislation; and (6) an injunction prohibiting the disbursement of funds pursuant to section 32 of Act 293.
Following the circuit court's grant of a motion to dismiss Deer/Mt. Judea's adequacy claims by defendant Governor Mike Beebe and the circuit court's grant of summary judgment to Deer/Mt. Judea on its special-legislation claim, Deer/Mt. Judea appealed the circuit court's rulings to this court. In Deer/Mt. Judea School District v. Kimbrell, 2013 Ark. 393, 430 S.W.3d 29, this court reversed the circuit court's dismissal of some of Deer/Mt. Judea's claims and remanded. This court drew a distinction between Deer/Mt. Judea's claims, stating that
[s]ome of the acts or omissions complained of occurred after we had released the mandate in Lake View 2007[, 370 Ark. 139, 257 S.W.3d 879 (2007)]. The circuit court abused its discretion in dismissing these claims. However, those acts or omissions that were brought or could have been brought in the previous school-funding cases are barred by res judicata, and the circuit court did not err in dismissing them.
2013 Ark. 393, at 19, 430 S.W.3d at 44. We then held that the " circuit court erred in dismissing [Deer/Mt. Judea]'s claims . . . relating to the adequacy reports and evaluations, COLAs, transportation funding, and facilities funding based on res judicata." Id. at 23, 430 S.W.3d at 46.
On February 12, 2014, Fort Smith filed its motion to intervene in the litigation. The motion alleged that the school districts seeking to intervene operated kindergarten-through-twelfth-grade schools in Crawford and Sebastian Counties, serving anywhere from 3,278 students in Alma to approximately 14,700 students in Fort Smith. Fort Smith asserted that it agreed with Deer/Mt. Judea's contention that the State had violated state law by failing to comply with Act 57 of 2003 in evaluating whether a ...