Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Judge Allows Pedro Garcia Memo as Evidence in School Rezoning Case

Posted By on Wed, Sep 29, 2010 at 7:10 AM

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Remember Metro's school rezoning case? Well, Judge John Nixon has finally gotten around to deciding what's allowed as evidence and what's not. It's not his ultimate decision, of course. Who knows when that will come. But it's huge for the NAACP and parents who filed the federal suit to stop the school board from ending cross-town busing of black children in this city. Nixon has allowed the crucial piece of the plaintiffs' case—the notorious Pedro Garcia memo in which the ousted school superintendent paints the rezoning plan as some kind of white racist plot to resegregate schools.

The memo contains hearsay and even layers of hearsay with a healthy dose of naked speculation tossed in for good measure. Yet Nixon found a way not to exclude it under various exceptions to the hearsay rule in the law. The education blogger Nashville Jefferson explains it all very nicely here. Nixon even allowed parts of the memo in which Garcia claims to be quoting other people. Our favorite is when Garcia quotes former school board member Kathy Nevill quoting former board chairwoman Marsha Warden as saying Hillwood parents were putting the heat on her to "get rid" of black kids in their school.

The memo is key because, to win the lawsuit, the NAACP had to prove the rezoning plan was racially motivated. Nash Jeff agrees this is a big victory for the plaintiffs but doesn't think it'll mean a favorable ruling in the end:

You can view this two ways: 1) As a prelude to an even bigger victory for Plaintiffs on the merits, or 2) As a consolation prize for the defeat that’s coming. Given the extremely high burden that Plaintiffs have to shoulder here, I tend to think it’s the latter, despite Judge Nixon’s apparent predilections and willingness to find somewhat far-fetched (though legally sound) justifications for his rulings.

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