Judge Blocks Kentucky Governor’s Order Abolishing U. of Louisville Board

[Updated (7/29/2016, 1:05 p.m.) with a statement from Governor Bevin's office.]

A Kentucky judge has temporarily blocked Gov. Matt Bevin’s executive order dissolving the University of Louisville’s Board of Trustees and establishing a new one. The order, signed by Phillip J. Shepherd, a Franklin County Circuit Court judge, grants a motion for a temporary injunction filed by the state’s attorney general, Andy Beshear.

“The record here is devoid of any legal or factual precedent for a governor to abolish and recreate an entire board of trustees of a public university,” the order reads, in part.

The order marks the latest development in the odd saga that has ensued since Governor Bevin, a Republican, last month announced he was dissolving Louisville’s board while establishing a new one that would be constituted mostly of his appointees. Mr. Beshear, a Democrat, sued the governor over the action, saying he had overstepped his authority.

“Without injunctive relief to restore the status quo prior to the executive order,” Friday’s order reads, in part, “the actions of the governor and his appointees could cause substantial disruption that would be difficult or impossible to undo … Or, in more practical terms, you can’t un-ring the bell.”

The new Louisville board has already taken action. On Wednesday it accepted the resignation of James R. Ramsey, the university’s president, whose resignation was also announced by Governor Bevin last month. In his order Judge Shepherd remarked that Governor Bevin’s role in Mr. Ramsey’s resignation appeared to be “inconsistent” with state law.

In a statement, Governor Bevin’s press secretary, Amanda Stamper, said the court had ignored “binding precedent” in issuing its order. “The court’s abrupt altering of the status quo, just as the newly constituted university board has begun to take constructive steps to put the university on a solid path forward, is neither in the best interest of the university nor the public,” she said, adding that the governor’s office was “very confident” that the injunction would be reversed upon appeal.

It’s unclear what effect the order has on the new board’s standing.

“Since the university was not a party in the lawsuit, we are not planning to issue a statement or any interpretation of the ruling,” wrote Cindy Hess, the university’s director of communications and marketing, in an emailed statement on Friday.

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