November 16, 2021, Judge Richard E. Gardiner ruled that a Fairfax County School Board’s (FCSB) lawsuit against two parents was “about as much a prior restraint as there ever could be” and he characterized one of the Board’s arguments as “almost frivolous.” (Related reading: “Court Transcripts: Fairfax County School Board vs. Tisler, et al.“, “Update on Fairfax County School Board’s Legal Action Against Parents“, “FCSB Files Motion for Nonsuit after Suing Parents and Failing to Prevail in Court; Judge Signs Order to Nonsuit“, “Parents and First Amendment Prevail; Judge Rules Against Fairfax County School Board“)
As legal fees continue to roll in, the total spent by FCSB now is expected to exceed $300,000.
The irony of the FCSB wasting $200,000+ of taxpayer funds to sue two taxpayers who dared to expose wasteful spending is impossible to ignore.
Fees to Date
Law firm Hunton Andrews Kurth (HAK) invoiced FCSB $116,001.42 for two weeks of work in September 2001.
HAK invoiced FCSB $95,366.60 for work done in October, bringing the amount invoiced for this one case to $211,368.02.
Given November included another hearing and FCSB filing a nonsuit, and the fact that the HAK invoices don’t include the in-house work done on this lawsuit, FCSB is on track to exceed $300,000, all because it didn’t want taxpayers to be aware of the bills they were absorbing.
Judge Gardiner himself stated:
And while it’s not a matter of something like the Pentagon papers where we’re talking about the war in Vietnam, certainly it’s a matter of public significance as to what the taxpayers — what bills the taxpayers are having to absorb. . . .
What we’re doing here is — what the defendants are doing is enforcing their rights under the First Amendment, and those rights, enforcing their rights under the First Amendment, is about as high in the public interest scale as you can get.
For decades, HAK has advised FCSB on legal matters.
One wonders if HAK advised FCSB that it could not possibly win a case based on prior restraint, censorship, and stripping citizens of their First Amendment rights—and FCSB members ignored HAK—or if HAK advised FCSB to move forward.
The same question applies to the messaging Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) released, which misled the public to believe all the unredacted documents were related to publicly identifiable information about students and about staff personnel files.
No matter how you slice it, there’s no question that $300,000+ would have better been spent on students than on hiding legal matters. If FCPS doesn’t want legal matters public, there’s a simple solution: Don’t engage in actions that result in lawyers having to jump in to bail you out.
Click on image below to view Hunton Andrews Kurth October invoice (which it redacted in advance of providing it in response to a FERPA request).