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Case Name Abbott v. Burke ED-NJ-0001
Docket / Court M-96-622 ( State Court )
State/Territory New Jersey
Case Type(s) Education
Case Summary
This class action lawsuit was filed in the Superior Court of New Jersey in 1981 on behalf of 20 children attending public schools in the cities of Camden, East Orange, Irvington, and Jersey City. The Plaintiffs, represented by counsel from the Education Law Center, claimed that the State's system ... read more >
This class action lawsuit was filed in the Superior Court of New Jersey in 1981 on behalf of 20 children attending public schools in the cities of Camden, East Orange, Irvington, and Jersey City. The Plaintiffs, represented by counsel from the Education Law Center, claimed that the State's system of financing public education under the Public School Education Act of 1975 (Chapter 212) unconstitutionally favored students in rich communities over those in poorer communities. Specifically, the Plaintiffs claimed that the Defendants' system of funding public education left a disparity in funding between schools in poor, urban communities and their more wealthy, suburban counterparts, which left the school districts in poorer communities without sufficient funds to properly educate their students.

Somewhere between 1985 and 1990, an Administrative Law Judge ruled that the Defendants' system of funding public education was unconstitutional. This was affirmed by the Supreme Court of New Jersey on June 5, 1990. In this order, the Court directed the New Jersey Legislature to enact a new law aimed at giving greater funding to poor, urban school districts such that they would have adequate funds to provide for necessary services. This new law was to be enacted before the 1991-92 school year. Abbott v. Burke, 575 A.2d 359 (N.J. 1990).

The Legislature responded with the Quality Education Act ("QEA"), which allowed for some increased funding, but not enough to satisfy the Plaintiffs. The case wound up back before the New Jersey Supreme Court in 1992 to be remanded to the trial court. After an extensive trial, the trial judge ruled that the QEA did not meet the expectations of the 1990 New Jersey Supreme Court order. The Judge recommended that the QEA be ruled unconstitutional, which was affirmed by the New Jersey Supreme Court on July 12, 1994. The Court then directed the State Legislature to enact another law to address the funding issues by September of 1996. Abbott v. Burke, 643 A.2d 575 (N.J. 1994).

This ruling prompted the Legislature to pass the Comprehensive Education Improvement and Financing Act ("CEIFA") in December of 1996. In January of 1997, however, the Plaintiffs returned to the Supreme Court of New Jersey to have CEIFA declared unconstitutional. The Court agreed with the Plaintiffs, and then gave the State Legislature specific goals for new legislation. These goals included parity in funding between wealthier and poorer school districts, and an immediate increase of $246 million in state aid to poorer school districts. Abbott v. Burke, 693 A.2d 417 (N.J. 1997). This ruling and another ruling on May 21, 1998 required a complete overhaul of the Defendants' funding procedures, and also allowed for poorer school districts to apply for increased funds, and an appeals process for those who were denied funding. Abbott v. Burke, 710 A.2d 454 (N.J. 1998); Abbott v. Burke, 693 A.2d 417 (N.J. 1997).

This case made New Jersey the first state in the United States to assure parity in educational resources to all children, regardless of economic background.

Over the past 14 years, this case has continued to show up in court due to delays in the implementation and execution of the Courts' 1997 and 1998 orders. The most recent New Jersey Supreme Court Opinion was released on May 24, 2011, declaring that the Defendants' failure to fund the School Funding Reform Act (SFRA) of 2008 was a "substantial and consequential blow" to students' right to education. Abbott v. Burke, 20 A.3d 1018 (N.J. 2011).

As of this writing, the case is ongoing.

Joshua Arocho - 07/26/2012

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Content of Injunction
Other requirements regarding hiring, promotion, retention
Elementary/Secondary School
Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action State law
Defendant(s) Commissioner of Education
Director of Budget and Accounting
State Board of Education
State Treasurer
Plaintiff Description Students in poor minority communities who were adversely affected by finance provisions of the state statutory system of elementary and secondary public education.
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Litigation
Filing Year 1996
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  Abbott v. Burke: A Model for Reform Through State Court Litigation
Date: May 1, 2000
By: Winsome G. Gayle (Harvard Law Student)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ]

No docket sheet currently in the collection
General Documents
Case Summary with Links to Opinions
ED-NJ-0001-0027.pdf | Detail
Reported Opinion (477 A.2d 1278)
ED-NJ-0001-0029.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 05/11/1984
Source: Google Scholar
Petition for Certification Granted (483 A.2d 187)
ED-NJ-0001-0030.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 07/12/1984
Source: Google Scholar
Reported Opinion (495 A.2d 376)
ED-NJ-0001-0028.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 07/23/1985
Source: Google Scholar
Order (575 A.2d 359)
ED-NJ-0001-0014.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 06/05/1990
Reported Opinion (1993 WL 379818)
ED-NJ-0001-0038.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 08/31/1993
Certification Granted (636 A.2d 515)
ED-NJ-0001-0037.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 10/04/1993
Source: Google Scholar
Order (643 A.2d 575)
ED-NJ-0001-0015.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 07/12/1994
Brief in Response to Plaintiffs' Motion in Aid of Litigants' Rights
ED-NJ-0001-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/17/1996
Plaintiffs' Reply Brief
ED-NJ-0001-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/22/1996
Opinion (693 A.2d 417)
ED-NJ-0001-0016.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 05/14/1997
Plaintiffs' Brief in Support of Motion in Aid to Litigants' Rights
ED-NJ-0001-0003.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/06/1997
Defendants' Proposed Findings of Fact
ED-NJ-0001-0004.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/19/1997
Plaintiffs' Proposed Findings of Fact, Conclusions, and Recommendations on Supplemental Programs
ED-NJ-0001-0005.pdf | Detail
Date: 12/19/1997
Defendants' Brief in Support of the Commissioner's Recommendations
ED-NJ-0001-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/13/1998
Plaintiffs' Brief in Reply to Defendants' Brief in Support of the Commissioners' Recommendations
ED-NJ-0001-0007.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/23/1998
Defendants' Reply Brief
ED-NJ-0001-0008.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/27/1998
Memo from Governor: Administration Bill: School Facilities Debt Funding Formula
ED-NJ-0001-0009.pdf | Detail
Date: 02/27/1998
Letter to Stephen Townsend, Clerk of the Supreme Court of New Jersey
ED-NJ-0001-0010.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/06/1998
Letter to Stephen Townsend, Clerk of the Supreme Court of New Jersey
ED-NJ-0001-0011.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/10/1998
Letter to Stephen Townsend, Clerk of the Supreme Court of New Jersey from Education Law Center
ED-NJ-0001-0012.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/19/1998
Letter to Stephen Townsend, Clerk of the Supreme Court of New Jersey
ED-NJ-0001-0013.pdf | Detail
Date: 03/24/1998
Opinion (710 A.2d 454)
ED-NJ-0001-0017.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 05/21/1998
Opinion (748 A.2d 82)
ED-NJ-0001-0018.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 03/07/2000
Reported Opinion (751 A.2d 1032)
ED-NJ-0001-0031.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 05/25/2000
Source: Google Scholar
Opinion (790 A.2d 842)
ED-NJ-0001-0019.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 02/21/2002
Reported Opinion (792 A.2d 412)
ED-NJ-0001-0034.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 02/22/2002
Source: Google Scholar
Untitled (798 A.2d 602)
ED-NJ-0001-0021.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 06/11/2002
Untitled (832 A.2d 891)
ED-NJ-0001-0020.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 06/24/2003
Order (832 A.2d 906)
ED-NJ-0001-0022.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 07/23/2003
Reported Opinion (852 A.2d 185)
ED-NJ-0001-0032.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 06/07/2004
Source: Google Scholar
Order (857 A.2d 173)
ED-NJ-0001-0033.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 06/07/2004
Source: Google Scholar
Order (862 A.2d 538)
ED-NJ-0001-0035.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 11/01/2004
Source: Google Scholar
Order (889 A.2d 1063)
ED-NJ-0001-0024.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 12/19/2005
Untitled (901 A.2d 299)
ED-NJ-0001-0023.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 05/09/2006
Reported Opinion (953 A.2d 1198)
ED-NJ-0001-0036.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 05/22/2006
Source: Google Scholar
[opinion] (2009 WL 1064462)
ED-NJ-0001-0025.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 05/28/2009
Untitled (20 A.3d 1018)
ED-NJ-0001-0026.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 05/24/2011
Judges Albin, Barry T. (State Supreme Court)
ED-NJ-0001-0032 | ED-NJ-0001-0033 | ED-NJ-0001-0035 | ED-NJ-0001-0036
Antell, Peter Court not on record
Doyne, Peter E. (State Trial Court)
Handler, Alan B. (State Supreme Court)
ED-NJ-0001-0016 | ED-NJ-0001-0017 | ED-NJ-0001-0028
Havey, James M. (State Appellate Court)
King, Michael Patrick (State Appellate Court)
ED-NJ-0001-0006 | ED-NJ-0001-0007 | ED-NJ-0001-0008
LaVecchia, Jaynee (State Supreme Court)
ED-NJ-0001-0025 | ED-NJ-0001-0026 | ED-NJ-0001-0032 | ED-NJ-0001-0033 | ED-NJ-0001-0035
Levy, Kenneth S. (State Trial Court)
Long, Virginia (State Supreme Court)
ED-NJ-0001-0032 | ED-NJ-0001-0033 | ED-NJ-0001-0035 | ED-NJ-0001-0036
Poritz, Deborah T. (State Supreme Court)
ED-NJ-0001-0018 | ED-NJ-0001-0019 | ED-NJ-0001-0032 | ED-NJ-0001-0033 | ED-NJ-0001-0035 | ED-NJ-0001-0036
Rivera-Soto, Roberto A. (State Supreme Court)
Wallace, John E. Jr. (State Supreme Court)
ED-NJ-0001-0032 | ED-NJ-0001-0033 | ED-NJ-0001-0035 | ED-NJ-0001-0036
Wilentz, Robert N. (State Supreme Court)
Zazzali, James (State Supreme Court)
Plaintiff's Lawyers Bass, Ellen S (New Jersey)
Feldman, Jonathan W. (New York)
Kimmich, Flora G. (New Jersey)
ED-NJ-0001-0028 | ED-NJ-0001-0029
Long, David C. (New Jersey)
Miller, Joyce D. (New Jersey)
Morheuser, Marilyn J. (New Jersey)
ED-NJ-0001-0028 | ED-NJ-0001-0029 | ED-NJ-0001-0038
Sciarra, David G. (New Jersey)
ED-NJ-0001-0002 | ED-NJ-0001-0003 | ED-NJ-0001-0005 | ED-NJ-0001-0007 | ED-NJ-0001-0010 | ED-NJ-0001-0012 | ED-NJ-0001-0031 | ED-NJ-0001-0034
Tractenberg, Paul (New Jersey)
Defendant's Lawyers Brown, William C. (New Jersey)
Ciancia, James J. (New Jersey)
ED-NJ-0001-0028 | ED-NJ-0001-0029
Clark, Benjamin (New Jersey)
Farmer, John J. Jr. (New Jersey)
Goltz, Bertram P. Jr. (New Jersey)
ED-NJ-0001-0028 | ED-NJ-0001-0029
Kaplen, Nancy (New Jersey)
ED-NJ-0001-0001 | ED-NJ-0001-0031 | ED-NJ-0001-0034
Kimmelman, Irwin I. (New Jersey)
ED-NJ-0001-0028 | ED-NJ-0001-0029
Miller, Michelle Lyn (New Jersey)
Miller, Jeffrey John (New Jersey)
Verniero, Peter (New Jersey)
ED-NJ-0001-0006 | ED-NJ-0001-0008 | ED-NJ-0001-0011 | ED-NJ-0001-0013
Other Lawyers Altman, Richard M. (New Jersey)
Buchsbaum, Peter A. (New Jersey)
Charles, Joseph Jr. (New Jersey)
Drury, James Creighton (New Jersey)
Eakeley, Douglas S. (New Jersey)
Eisdorfer, Stephen (New Jersey)
Friedman, Richard A. (New Jersey)
Jones, Arthur H. Jr. (New Jersey)
Kugler, George F. Jr. (New Jersey)
Mchugh, Anne P. (New Jersey)
Medoway, Ellis I. (New Jersey)

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