Rivera-Soto, dissenting from Abbott ruling, says court ignored its own prior conclusions, procedural practices

In dissenting from today’s state Supreme Court Abbott ruling Justice Roberto Rivera-Soto pointed out that the court itself had held that the state’s school funding formula was constitutional.

That conclusion, he wrote was “foreshadowing the economic crisis that shortly thereafter would engulf our entire nation,” and “it acknowledged that “[t]here is no absolute guarantee that SFRA will achieve the results desired by all.”

“Mindful of that concern, the Court took care to emphasize that “[t]he political branches of government, however, are entitled to take reasoned steps, even if the outcome cannot be assured, to address the pressing social, economic, and educational challenges confronting our state.”

Also, he wrote that procedurally the court went against the rules and needed four affirmative votes, not three.

“It is critical to re-emphasize that, procedurally, this matter is before the Court not as a petition for certification or any other application on appeal, but, specifically, as a motion.

“Although the Rules of Court explicitly define how many judges of the Appellate Division are required to grant a motion, the Rules are silent as to the number of Justices needed to grant motion relief. That silence is particularly poignant, as the Rules specifically provide that less than a majority of the Justices — only three — are required to vote affirmatively in order to grant a petition for certification, the vehicle by which the overwhelming majority of appeals arrive at this Court.

“As a result and particularly in the context of a Court constituted by fewer than its full complement of seven, the requirements for granting a motion before this Court have been the subject of extensive internal discussion and have evolved as a matter of practice. Based on those discussions and evolution, the rule of practice in fact and consistently applied in this Court has been that, to be granted, a motion requires the affirmative vote of four, regardless of the number of Justices voting.” Rivera-Soto, dissenting from Abbott ruling, says court ignored its own prior conclusions, procedural practices