The appeal of a federal judge’s decision in the Gardendale school breakaway case may hit an unexpected roadblock.
The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta has issued a “jurisdictional question” to all parties in the case in which it asked whether the ruling issued in April by U.S. District Judge Madeline Haikala could be considered a final judgment, since the ruling did not give complete and final control of Gardendale’s four schools to the city right away.
Gardendale’s years-long effort to break from the Jefferson County Schools and form its own municipal system was given partial approval in Haikala’s ruling, which allowed the city to take over Gardendale and Snow Rogers elementary schools in the coming academic year. The order laid out a process for the city to follow to ensure desegregation efforts over the next three years before she would hand over control of Gardendale High and Bragg Middle schools.
The NAACP Legal Defense Fund, which represents the plaintiffs in the original Stout v. Jefferson County Board of Education case that gives the courts supervision over the county system and city systems that separated from it, quickly announced its intention to appeal the decision. The LDF legal team believes Haikala should have not given Gardendale any control at all, because she found that the city had racial motives for seeking to separate.
The Gardendale Board of Education also announced its intent to file a cross-appeal, which will argue there was no racial motivation and that it should have been given full control of all four schools from the outset.
Haikala’s ruling was to take effect in time for Gardendale to operate the elementary schools in the 2017-18 school year, but the judge agreed to stay her order to allow the case to be appealed to the 11th Circuit. But that court is only allowed to hear appeals in final judgments, so a clerk filed the jurisdictional question with the parties on Tuesday.
All briefs must be filed before July 17 deadline, if the 11th Circuit decides that appeals can proceed.