Requests made by both parties in the lawsuit between the city of McMinnville and Warren County government have been denied by the judge, which could have spurred the desire for a second settlement conference.
A summary judgment is a determination made by a court without a full trial and is an attempt by a party to promptly and expeditiously dispose of a case without a trial. Such a judgment may be issued as to the merits of an entire case, or a specific issue in the case.
The city requested a summary judgment that the 1969 contract between the city and county to be declared against public policy as a matter of law in that it contains no expiration date. Further, the city argued the county, as a matter of law, has not provided the high quality of education alluded to in the contracts.
Judge J.B. Cox says the city has not proven its contention and denied the summary judgment.
The county’s summary judgment request was made on “the grounds that it has faithfully performed under the contract, that it has provided a quality education by obtaining and maintaining appropriate accreditation, and successfully running and maintaining the system for all these many years.”
Cox denied the county’s request as unproved.
“Thus, the county cannot, has not, as a matter of law, affirmatively negated the city’s contention that they have breached the agreement to maintain said accreditation: summary judgment in favor of the county is inappropriate as to breach.”
The agreement between the two began in 1969 and required the county to maintain a “high standard” of education. While the county contends the agreement requires it to maintain SACS accreditation, the city disagrees and presented the courts with an exhibit (Defendant’s 56.03). The only school listed as accredited prior to 1989 is Warren County High School.
The judge looked at the situation from both sides of the education issue, found a valid dispute and denied the request for summary judgment.
“If the standard of educational services to be rendered by the county is a ‘high standard’ as stated in the 1985 agreement, a factual dispute exists as to whether such a standard of education was provided. If the ‘high standard’ was only intended to mean the county should maintain (SACS) accreditation, a factual dispute exists as to whether or not the county has maintained such accreditation.”
Cox says, “By either interpretation, a dispute of material facts exists, and summary judgment is inappropriate.”
When it comes to the city’s contention the contract is against public law since it is over 40 years old, the judge says the county has not shown the city to be incorrect in its belief.
A summary judgment was also requested by the county on the grounds of the maintenance of effort doctrine, which requires local education agencies to keep current funding levels at least as high as the previous year, or face diminution of state funds.
Cox says the city is not required to adhere to the state’s maintenance of effort doctrine because the county is the local education agency.
The judge’s refusal to allow summary judgment for the city or the county means the judge has found both sides have merit and will be heard unless a settlement can be reached.
“Summary judgment is only appropriate when there is no genuine issue of material fact and when the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law,” said Cox.
When Judge Cox was contacted by the Southern Standard as to when the settlement conference would be held and if his denial of the motions encouraged the parties to return to negotiation, no comment was made.
“I spoke to the judge about your request,” said his assistant, Sue Brooks. “He refuses to comment on any ongoing case before him. No comment.”