MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - A federal judge has recessed a hearing on the constitutionality of municipal school districts in Shelby County for two weeks to give both sides time to consider testimony and take depositions of the last witness to take the stand.
U.S. District Judge Samuel Mays decided to put the entire hearing on hold until September 20.
"The court got to a juncture where… he was trying to consider where the last witness was being produced just as a fact witness or as an expert witness," explained State Senator Mark Norris (R-Collierville). "In an abundance of precaution the court said let's take a recess and give everybody an opportunity to take depositions of this witness and find out whatever they'd like to find out before we resume, and given [the judge's] schedule the earliest he could resume is September 20th. So they'll all be back and pick up where they left off and we'll all know a little bit more about this last witness."
That last witness was a map specialist who works with population figures in Gibson and Carroll Counties, which are two of the five other Tennessee counties attorneys argue would benefit from the municipal schools legislation. In order for any state law to be constitutional, it has to affect more than one county.
Those who argue the law only affects Shelby County say that municipal school districts should be ruled unconstitutional. They use new laws approved by legislators this year to speed up the process as an example.
Unified School Board member Martavius Jones stated, "[The law] only talks about those counties where there's a Transitional Planning Commission in place; there was only one, being Shelby County."
Those who say the law is constitutional say there's no way the TCP couldn't have known to plan for municipal school districts as long as a year ago.
"All along we wanted to be recognized that we wanted to be part of the planning stage, and a lot of times the TPC thought their charge was to not recognize what municipalities were going to attempt in August 2013," said Arlington Mayor Mike Wissman.
Once the hearing resumes and testimony continues, Judge Mays will rule whether the plan to start municipal schools is constitutional. If the judge decides it's not, he could throw out the results of last month's elections, when voters in Arlington, Bartlett, Collierville, Germantown, Lakeland and Millington all approved forming their own school systems.