U of L trustee case now in hands of the Kentucky Supreme Court
Attorney General Andy Beshear is challenging Gov. Matt Bevin's 2016 revamping of U of L board
FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- The Kentucky Supreme Court heard oral arguments Friday in a legal battle over Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin's 2016 executive order dissolving the University of Louisville board of trustees and creating a new one.
Bevin said the move was necessary because the board was "dysfunctional." Attorney General Andy Beshear sued, calling Bevin's move a "power grab."
A circuit court judge ruled in Beshear's favor, but Bevin appealed to the Supreme Court.
Bevin's attorney, Steve Pitt, read from the law itself in arguing that governor's reorganization was legal.
"These reorganizations may include the creation, alteration or abolition of any organizational unit or administrative body," Pitt told the justices.
Beshear argued his case himself, saying the universities' independence is at stake.
"In the end, a university needs to be able to make a decision about budget, courses, tenure, hiring and firing without the pressure of a governor being able to totally wipe out a board if he disagrees with that decision," Beshear told reporters after the hearing.
But this case has another wrinkle. Earlier this year, the General Assembly passed a law essentially validating Bevin's order. Pitt told the justices the legislature's action makes the entire case moot, and they should throw out the case.
"A decision by this court today or at some point in the future cannot have any impact on whether what board sits for the University of Louisville. That decision has been made by the General Assembly," said Pitt.
But Beshear said the court should rule to prevent future attempts to blow up university boards and threaten their accreditation.
"And that puts the University of Kentucky, Murray State, all of our other universities just as at risk," said Beshear.
"With all due respect to the Attorney General, I think that's poppycock," responded Pitt.
This is the second time the Attorney General and the governor have faced off in the Supreme Court over the limits of the governor's power. Bevin lost the previous case over his cutting of university budgets. There is no word yet on when the court might rule on this latest round of Bevin vs. Beshear.
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