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Additional info for Courts As Policymakers: School Finance Reform Litigation (American Legal Institutions)
Armed with these coding categories, I used a three-step procedure to code the opinions. First, I read each opinion and briefed it using standard law school methods (modified to include very detailed descriptions of the majority analysis). 24 During this process, I often noticed possible causes and patterns related to a particular court’s choices and treatments of key issues, and kept notes of these observations in a separate log. The second step involved condensing coded sections of the briefs into short summaries of the court’s treatment of each key economic issue and its choices of equity objects and standards.
Court accepts multiple standards. Two Texas court opinions—Edgewood Independent School District v. Kirby (1989) (Edgewood I) and Edgewood Independent School District v. Meno (1995) (Edgewood IV)—represent decisions involving multiple object/standard codes and, in the case of Edgewood I, less than clear choices. In Edgewood I, the court upheld plaintiffs’ education clause challenge to the Texas school finance system. In reaching this conclusion, the court primarily defined the education clause (which required the legislature to establish, support, and maintain an “efficient system of free public schools”) as requiring some level of access equality of dollars.
Jensen’s study differs from the work presented here in several ways, both substantive and methodological. In terms of methodology, Jensen does not discuss the method he used to categorize the cases, nor the criteria used to identify which cases to analyze. In particular, his study appears not to differentiate with respect to level of court deciding the case. Nor does it appear to take into account whether a court is issuing related opinions in the same litigation. The study presented here is limited to state supreme courts, and treats multiple opinions issued in one suit differently from suits resulting in only one opinion.