(EDITOR'S NOTE: Here's another AP article which didn't make it into the Star-Bulletin or Advertiser. But it did make the HTH front page and Hilo's KPUA AM, and it is featured in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, as well as papers in Charlotte, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, Columbus, GA, and of course both The Center Daily Times and the widely-read Silver City Sun News.
Why would the SB and ADV ignore this story? Instead ADV and SB's theme is typified by this regurgitated Kanu Hawaii pap from today's SB: Groups want special session to cancel Furlough Fridays.)
AP: Judge Ezra's furlough settlement talks near
by Herbert Sample AP 11-4-09
HONOLULU — With less than a week before what could be a pivotal court hearing, a federal judge and lawyers involved in two lawsuits that seek to end Hawaii’s teacher furloughs may meet privately in the next few days to discuss settling the cases.
Lawyers representing parents of public school students said Tuesday they have not yet heard from U.S. District Judge David Ezra, but they expect to engage in talks with him and attorneys for the state before a public hearing scheduled for Monday.
Ezra recused himself from presiding over the lawsuits last week but was appointed a special master to continue settlement negotiations.
Attorneys in the cases are “on call to meet with him either individually” or as a group, said attorney Eric Seitz, whose lawsuit is on behalf of all Hawaii public school students and their parents
Another lawyer, Carl Varady, is handling the second lawsuit whose plaintiffs are all special education pupils and their parents.
Seitz said Ezra is unlikely to talk extensively with him or Varady because the judge is aware of their position.
“What we desire to do is get kids back to school and then let the Legislature try and fix the problem when they come back in January,” Seitz added. “He knows that we are going to be very flexible because we just simply want an interim solution.”
Attorney General Mark Bennett, who represents Gov. Linda Lingle and the state Department of Education, would not comment on the talks. Spokesmen for the department and the state Board of Education also declined to comment.
Meanwhile, Varady said state education officials are contacting parents of special education students to discuss ways of regaining instructional time that would be lost to furloughs.
Arrangements for one child were negotiated and the parents have dropped out of the lawsuit, leaving eight sets of parents in the case, Varady said.
On Friday, Ezra recused himself from presiding over the two lawsuits, apparently after discussions with Wallace Tashima, a senior U.S. Ninth Circuit judge in Pasadena, Calif. Tashima then named Ezra a special master to continue private settlement negotiations Ezra had already started.
Varady and Seitz said no one asked Ezra to recuse himself.
Ezra wouldn’t comment Tuesday. But in an order filed Friday, he said he recused himself “out of an abundance of caution” in order to facilitate discussions.
A federal judge presiding over a lawsuit generally can’t help settle it by meeting independently with one side or the other because that constitutes an inappropriate ex parte communication.
But as a special master, Ezra is free to converse individually with the parties, said Michael Nauyokas, a labor lawyer in Hawaii. Ezra presided over a landmark federal lawsuit during the 1990s that alleged Hawaii was violating federal requirements for special education students.
If no settlement is reached by Monday, Tashima will hear arguments over a request by Varady and Seitz to grant a preliminary injunction halting the furloughs. Tashima was due in Hawaii next week anyway to handle a separate lawsuit related to layoffs and furloughs of state workers.
RELATED: Furloughs: How Unions and the DoE aim to co-opt protesting parents
UPDATE: Negotiations over teacher furloughs prove pointless (This one made it into Maui News 11-7-09)
HONOLULU - Twin lawsuits filed by parents seeking to halt Hawaii's teacher furloughs face a pivotal federal court hearing after settlement negotiations foundered this week.
One of the lawyers representing the parents, Eric Seitz, said Monday's hearing could be raucous.
This week, U.S. District Judge David Ezra held settlement talks with state lawyers. Seitz and Carl Varady, who represents eight special education students and their parents, said Ezra told them Thursday that no out-of-court resolution was forthcoming.
Ezra is acting as a special master overseeing the settlement talks.
Varady said he and Seitz will on Monday seek a preliminary injunction halting further teacher furloughs until a trial can be held.