Scales of Justice

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed a lower court’s dismissal of a lawsuit filed by former members of the Kentucky Board of Education.

The appellate court issued its ruling Tuesday, rejecting claims that the seven former members had rights to their seats on the panel and that their due process rights had been violated after Gov. Andy Beshear’s reorganization of the Kentucky Board of Education in December 2019.

U.S. District Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove dismissed the lawsuit in June, writing at the time that he was "unpersuaded that this case presents a federal constitution or statutory violation."

Both he and the appellate court noted that the Kentucky Supreme Court affirmed Beshear’s authority to reorganize the state education board by executive order.

"Plaintiffs did not have a property interest in their continued board membership, nor do they have a cognizable claim for a violation of either procedural or substantive due process rights," the appellate court’s Tuesday opinion written by Senior Circuit Judge Eugene Siler Jr. says. "... The district court did not have subject matter jurisdiction and Plaintiffs failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted."

Steven Megerle, the attorney representing the former board members, said his clients were "disappointed" with Tuesday's ruling.

"For the first time in 150 years the public education system for Kentucky children is now just another political pawn of the governor," Megerle wrote in an email to WDRB News. "Hopefully, the General Assembly can successfully reign in and limit the power of this governor."

Beshear's office did not respond to a request for comment.

The former state education board members challenged Beshear's reorganization, which occurred on his first day in office, in federal court after three state courts rejected their attempts to block Beshear's executive order from taking effect before the new board could meet.

The governor had pledged to reorganize the Kentucky Board of Education on the campaign trail, and the new board quickly negotiated the resignation of former Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis. Ten of the 11 newly appointed voting members of the board were later confirmed by the Kentucky Senate.

Education Commissioner Jason Glass was hired by the state board in July.

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