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A federal appeals court overturned a landmark ruling that affirmed the right to an education. Education is necessary for full citizenship, so voters can be fully informed. However the appeals court did not agree.
In April, a 3-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit issued a landmark decision in the Detroit literacy case, Gary B. v. Whitmer, holding that there is a “fundamental right to a basic minimum education” under the U.S. Constitution. The two-to-one decision of the three-judge panel defined the right in terms of “access to literacy.”
However, in May, the full complement of 6th Circuit judges moved to review the case “en banc”, and eradicated the decision of the three judge panel. In the meantime, the Plaintiffs had settled the case with Governor Whitmer, the main defendant. Accordingly, they informed the Court of the settlement and said that the case was now moot and should be dismissed. Certain other defendants and the legislative leaders sought to continue the case, but earlier this week, the Sixth Circuit issued a ruling that accepted the plaintiffs’ position and dismissed the case. The net effect of the complicated history of the Gary B appeal is that although two U.S. Court of Appeals judges issued a landmark ruling holding for the first time that there is a limited right to education under the U.S. Constitution, that decision is now a legal nullity. However, as Mark Rosenbaum, one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs, put it, “The decision was vacated but the words will never disappear.”