Debevoise Litigators Lead Pro Bono Effort to Overhaul Connecticut Education System

7 September 2016

In a decision that will impact educational funding in Connecticut, a Connecticut State Superior Court Judge today declared several features of the state’s system of education, including the formula for distributing funding to school districts, unconstitutional.

Marking the culmination of more than a decade-long struggle for sufficient funding of education throughout the state, this case was brought by the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding (“CCJEF”) and individual students and their parents. Evidence revealed serious deficiencies in the delivery of educational opportunities to substantial numbers of the state’s students. The case was led by a pro bono team of litigators from Debevoise & Plimpton LLP. David Rosen & Associates PC and the Yale Law School Education Adequacy Project Clinic served as co-counsel.

“Students in high-poverty school districts in Connecticut have been the principal victims of the state’s failure to fulfill its constitutional obligation. Today’s decision marks the first step toward ensuring all students have meaningful opportunities to become college- and career-ready,” said Joseph P. Moodhe, a litigation partner at Debevoise and lead attorney for the plaintiffs.

Today’s rulings follow an extensive trial that took place over six months and involved testimony from more than 50 witnesses. The state will have 180 days to submit proposals to address the several constitutional deficiencies found by the court, after which, plaintiffs will have 60 days within which to submit comments.

“Our clients brought this suit to ensure that all Connecticut students receive adequate and equitable educational opportunities,” added Moodhe. “Our firm signed on to this cause pro bono because we believed the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding’s goal deserved support, and were convinced that an energetic push was needed to vindicate the rights of Connecticut students.

During the proceedings, the Debevoise team has included partners Joseph P. Moodhe and Helen V. Cantwell; counsel Megan K. Bannigan; and associates Olivia Cheng, Gregory P. Copeland, Lindsay C. Cornacchia, Susan Reagan Gittes, Sean Heikkila, Emily A. Johnson, Dustin N. Nofziger, David B. Noland, Jehan Pernas, Johanna N. Skrzypczyk, Christel Tham and Alexandra Thompson, as well as alumni of the firm.

Pro bono legal service has been deeply rooted in the culture of Debevoise since it was founded in 1931. While it satisfies the firm’s ethical obligation to help those in need, it is also part of what makes Debevoise lawyers strong leaders of their practices and communities. Debevoise finished No. 1 overall and No. 1 in pro bono among all U.S. law firms in The American Lawyer’s “10-Year A-List,” and is a charter signatory to the Pro Bono Institute’s Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge™, agreeing to commit at least 5% of annual billed time to pro bono matters, as well as to the New York City Bar Statement of Pro Bono Principles.

Debevoise & Plimpton LLP is a premier law firm with market-leading practices, a global perspective and strong New York roots. We deliver effective solutions to our clients’ most important legal challenges, applying clear commercial judgment and a distinctively collaborative approach.