Legal Billing Seems At Odds With Intent

Last year, a federal lawsuit was filed attempting to put an end to bilingual education at Albuquerque Public Schools. Not surprisingly, APS defended itself in the suit, incurring attorney’s fees in the process.

APS was supported in its efforts by several groups, including the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund Inc. and Multicultural Education and Training Advocacy Inc. of Massachusetts, both of which intervened in the case.

This summer, a federal judge struck down most of the elements of the lawsuit against APS, clearing the way for APS and bilingual education supporters to draft a settlement in the case. The school district not only keeps bilingual education, it expands it. The agreement requires the school district to step up recruitment of bilingual education teachers, conduct better tracking of student progress and make programs more consistent among schools. Additionally, MALDEF and the Massachusetts group agreed to dismiss civil rights crossclaims against APS supporting bilingual education.

Because of those crossclaims, those two interveners are entitled under federal law to collect attorneys fees and costs, and they are now billing APS for $246,971. Federal law says they are entitled, but should they be hammering at APS for such costs?

There is no disputing that these two interveners helped APS defeat the lawsuit and helped advance programming and bilingual services for students in New Mexico. The American GI Forum and more than a dozen other organizations and individuals, including the League of United Latin American Citizens, also intervened because they support bilingual education.

But such support is part of the agendas of MALDEF and the Massachusetts group, which raise money and are funded to further those agendas. It seems at cross purposes for these groups to take nearly a quarter of a million dollars from the financial resources of the school district as it is poised to proceed with settlement terms.

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