Feathered Bastard

Tom Horne's White Flag in Oral Arguments on Tucson's Ethnic Studies Program

This week Attorney General Tom Horne paid a visit to recalled ex-state Senate President Russell Pearce's Ban Amnesty Now radio show, where he regaled Pearce's tens of listeners with his heroic legal work of late, despite Pearce's incessant efforts to turn the conversation back to his ridiculous "buy-cott" (read, "boycott") of New Times.

At one point, Horne proudly mentioned that he had recently appeared in federal court and personally argued on behalf of Arizona Revised Statutes 15-111 and 15-112, also known as "House Bill 2281," Arizona's ethnic studies ban.

Horne did indeed appear before federal Judge A. Wallace Tashima in Tucson on March 19 for oral arguments on motions for summary judgment in a lawsuit initially brought by teachers and students of the Tucson Unified School District. 

But as I'll discuss later, Horne's performance was nothing to crow about, and at one point, he seemed to hoist a white flag of sorts. 

In fact, after reading the transcript of the hearing, I'm reminded of that old saw often attributed to Abe Lincoln that, "He who represents himself has a fool for a client."

As most people know, TUSD's Mexican American Studies program has been wiped out, its director Sean Arce fired, and books deemed questionable by school authorities removed from the classroom and banished to a school warehouse. 

TUSD's board eliminated MAS in response to state Superintendent John Huppenthal's decision to withhold 10 percent of TUSD's funding. That is, if the district did not comply with his finding that MAS was in violation of HB 2281. 

The board appealed Huppenthal's finding to an Administrative Law Judge, but when the ALJ backed Huppenthal's decision, TUSD caved and ended the program.

The federal lawsuit, which now only has the students as plaintiffs, challenges the eradication of MAS on constitutional grounds, as a violation of their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution. 

More specifically, in his motion for summary judgment, plaintiffs' counsel Richard Martinez asks the court to strike down ARS 15-111 and 112, mainly because the laws are "vague and overbroad," a description just about any layperson would deem accurate once they've read the statutes.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons