A judge on Thursday ordered the state of New Mexico to pay over $312,000 in reimbursement for legal expenses to a second group of plaintiffs in a landmark lawsuit accusing the state education department of failing to offer an adequate education to all public school students.
First Judicial District Judge Sarah Singleton ruled last summer in the case, Yazzie-Martinez v. State of New Mexico, that the state must do more to meet its constitutional duty to provide a sufficient education to some of its most vulnerable students. The decision led to a funding increase of more than 17 percent for schools during the last legislative session.
The two groups of plaintiffs in the case then sought compensation for some of their costs to bring the suit — not including attorneys fees.
Last week, Singleton issued an order for the state to pay a group headed by plaintiff Wilhelmina Yazzie $116,857.81 for expert witnesses’ travel and hotel fares, depositions, printing and copying of documents, and calls made by attorneys.
On Thursday, she ordered the state to pay the second group, headed by plaintiff Louise Martinez, $312,104.36 in compensation for such costs to bring the suit.
In late March, the groups had requested a combined $450,000 from the state.
Lawyers for the state countered, however, that some of the costs in the request seemed excessive or unnecessary. Singleton, in her final order, excluded just over $21,000 in compensation from the state.
“We’re happy with the order. It’s what we expected,” said Ernest Herrera, an attorney with the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, which is representing the Martinez plaintiffs.
“Now we are looking at what the state is doing following the legislative session,” Herrera said. “We are going to learn more about what the laws that were passed look like in the districts.”
Attorneys representing both Yazzie and Martinez have said their work on the lawsuit was pro bono.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office told The New Mexican last month that the state, represented by law firms Montgomery & Andrews in Santa Fe and Stinson Leonard Street in St. Louis, spent $5.9 million fighting the suit.