Attorney Reflects On High Court Trip
By EMILY GUEVARA
John C. Hardy was 34 when he argued his first and only case before the U.S. Supreme Court.
As Tyler ISD's longtime attorney, Hardy represented the district in Plyler v. Doe, a case that originated in Tyler in 1977.
In 1975, the Texas Legislature passed a law that it would not fund education for illegal immigrants.
As the school district's Hispanic population began to grow, the district sought to charge $1,000 tuition to illegal immigrant students as a way to fund their education because the state wouldn't, according to
Tyler Morning Telegraph
In response to the district's decision, representatives from the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund filed a suit in Tyler federal court on behalf of several Mexican-American families.
U.S. District Judge William Wayne Justice issued a preliminary injunction to stop the school district from charging tuition. The court also put the children back in school. Justice later issued a permanent injunction.
TISD appealed the decision to the Fifth Circuit and ultimately the U.S. Supreme Court.
Hardy argued the case before the Supreme Court in 1981.
"You don't forget things like that," he said. "It was a great experience. It was very educational."
Hardy said the courthouse was very crowded that day, not necessarily for the Plyler case.
He expected to have about one hour to argue before the court, but said it was less arguing the case and more answering questions from the justices.
He said the court's lighting system lets attorneys know how long they have to speak, and at one point he started to sit down because his time was up, but the justices told him to wait because they had more questions.
"So I stayed up there and kept answering more questions," he said. "So it was interesting, and it was fun, and it was a great experience."
Hardy said it was a very involved hands-on process. He said although he was somewhat nervous, he knew he was prepared and did his job.
He said he reflects on the experience periodically and still gets calls from law students and professors every once in a while.
He said Justice, who died in 2009, talked with him several times about the case after it went beyond his court.
Although TISD lost -- the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in favor of the Mexican-American families -- Hardy said he did his job.
"We had prepared it," he said. "Obviously, we had four justices on the United States Supreme Court that thought we were correct."
He said if the same case went before the court today, he thinks the ruling would be different.
"I think it's a more conservative court," he said. "I think it could have very well been a different (outcome)."