Litigation Is Expensive

Everyone knows litigation is expensive. How much is the continuing desegregation litigation costing the Little Rock School District? An analysis was made of expenses for a sample three-month period. The analysis included the payments to the district's lawyers, the LRSD share of the budget of the Office of Desegregation Monitoring, and the pro-rata salaries and fringe benefits of the superintendent and four other LRSD administrators. The results are shown below.

Selected Average Monthy Costs of Desegregation Litigation

This estimate is conservative, that is, intentionally on the low side so as not to exaggerate the costs. It is low for several reasons. During the three month period examined--June, July, August 1995--nine days were spent in court, quieter than usual, according to participants. Estimates were based only on the hours spent in court and in case preparation meetings with attorneys. No effort was made to determine the additional time LRSD officials spent in preparation for the meetings with attorneys, nor was an estimate made of the time support staff devoted to the preparation of documents and exhibits. Finally, no effort was made to put a price tag on one of the greatest costs of litigation--distraction from normal duties.

Other public entities also incur considerable expenses in the desegregation litigation. The North Little Rock School District and the Pulaski County Special School District incur the same kinds of costs as the Little Rock School District. The Arkansas Department of Education has a full-time employee hired for the specific purpose of performing the Department's monitoring obligations and reporting to the Office of Desegregation Monitoring. The Office of the Attorney General of Arkansas includes an attorney who devotes a substantial amount of time to the case. The U.S. District Court is required to devote extensive time and resources to the case. Nor does the estimate include any payments which might someday have to be made for the fees and expenses of the attorneys for the plaintiffs.

The average monthly cost of $44,646 would total $535,752 for 12 months. This amount would permit a budget balancing reduction of more than a half million dollars or pay the salaries and fringe benefits of 14 or 15 teachers or cover the annual costs of educating approximately 100 students.

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