A federal district judge heard arguments Tuesday in a case brought by several Kentucky Board of Education members ousted by Gov. Andy Beshear.
The members, all appointed by former Gov. Matt Bevin, are asking the court to stop the Beshear-appointed board from meeting. The seven former board members say Beshear’s decision to remove them shortly after his election was illegal.
They asked a state court for a preliminary injunction to prevent the new board from meeting in December, but the state court denied that request. Now, the Bevin appointees are suing in federal court. Their attorney, Steven Megerly, argued Tuesday that their positions on the board were a property right protected by the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
“It is an intangible right similar to the right of liberty,” Megerly told the court in Tuesday’s hearing.
He’s asking the court to issue an emergency preliminary injunction that would stop the current board members from meeting while the court considers the case. The judge, Gregory Van Tatenhove, seemed skeptical that he should have jurisdiction over the case.
“This feels like politics to me,” Van Tatenhove said.
“For me to rule in favor of the plaintiffs in this case, I’ve got to find that the Kentucky Supreme Court got this wrong in key areas,” he said. He also questioned whether the Bevin-appointed board members’ request for an emergency preliminary injunction meets the standard required – that if not granted they would suffer “irreparable harm.”
Megerly assured him members would.
“If you have a public official who is violating the law, it’s irreparable harm. It’s a fact,” he said.
Meanwhile attorneys for Beshear, the Kentucky Board of Education and the state attorney general told the judge that the matter is not within federal jurisdiction, and has already been correctly decided by the Kentucky Supreme Court, which upheld a lower state court’s decision to deny the injunction.
Furthermore, they say an injunction would have a negative impact on the state’s teachers and students.
“It’s imperative that the work of the Kentucky Board of Education be carried out in an uninterrupted fashion,” Kentucky Board of Education attorney Ashley Lant told the judge.
The judge says he will rule on the injunction late this week or early next.