Last Updated: November 18, 2013
Judicial Watch filed a new brief (Michael Lee Phillips, et al v. Board of Trustees Montgomery College (No. 01319)) in its taxpayer lawsuit against Maryland’s Montgomery College over the school’s unlawful policy of charging discounted “in county” tuition rates to students who graduate from Montgomery County public high schools, regardless of their place of residency or immigration status. On August 16, 2011, the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, Maryland, dismissed Judicial Watch’s lawsuit, filed on behalf of three Montgomery County taxpayers, prompting an appeal to the Court of Special Appeals in Maryland.
The lawsuit alleges that Montgomery College’s tuition policy violates both Maryland and federal law and places a substantial financial burden on Montgomery County taxpayers, who must subsidize the cost of students attending the community college:
Plaintiff’s lawsuit alleges Defendant’s policy is illegal and ultra vires (beyond the scope of legal authority) under both Maryland and federal law. Plaintiff’s lawsuit also alleges that Defendant’s illegal and ultra vires tuition policy has caused and will continue to cause taxpayers to suffer pecuniary injury.
The Circuit Court for Montgomery County dismissed Plaintiff’s lawsuit in a ruling that seriously erodes the rights of Maryland taxpayers to challenge illegal and ultra vires acts by Maryland public officials.
The Circuit Court ruling, which dismissed the lawsuit on the grounds that Judicial Watch’s taxpayer clients did not have the right to challenge the policy, is “in contravention of more than 150 years of precedent,” Judicial Watch argues. Long-standing and well-established law in Maryland authorizes taxpayer plaintiffs to bring suit to “enjoin illegal…acts of public officials where those acts are reasonably likely to result in pecuniary loss or an increase in taxes.” In a landmark case in 1869 Maryland’s Court of Appeals (the state’s highest court) explained that:
[I]n this state the Courts have always maintained with jealous vigilance the restraints and limitations imposed by law upon the excise of power by municipal and other corporations; and have not hesitated to exercise their rightful jurisdiction for the purpose of restraining them within the limits of their lawful authority, and of protecting the citizen from the consequence of their unauthorized or illegal acts.
The lawsuit alleges Montgomery College failed to collect at least $7,940,374 in tuition and fees in the four academic years between 2007 and 2010 because of the policy, causing “substantial pecuniary losses to taxpayers.” During the course of the lawsuit, the college admitted that its policy had been in place since at least as early as 2002.
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