Due Process Protects Us All

By Edwin C. Darden

Many people view attorneys as artful dodgers. They observe with distaste that skilled law practitioners, using clever litigation tricks, can get a lawsuit dismissed swiftly on a mere technicality.

In my judgment, that is a good thing.

Contrary to popular opinion, legal procedure is not just a series of random hurdles and a litigation game of “gotcha.” The rules serve important purposes, such as protecting the overall fairness of the legal system, giving litigants equal access to justice, and ensuring efficient use of the court’s time and resources.

In fact, school districts often benefit from a prerequisite known as “exhaustion,” which forces plaintiffs to touch every administrative base before trotting to home plate and the courthouse. The complaining person must “exhaust” all of the district’s administrative avenues, and receive a final undesirable decision, before resorting to legal action. The rationale is pretty straightforward: Someone cannot declare his or her unhappiness in midstream and short-circuit the district’s process.

Is dismissing a lawsuit because the school district’s proceedings are pending a technicality? Perhaps. But the rule is useful, and it was the subject of two court cases earlier this year-- both victories for school systems. 

Would you like to continue reading?
Subscribers please click here to continue reading. If you are not a subscriber, please click here to purchase this article or to obtain a subscription to ASBJ.