Play by plays in courtroom, and on court
Tucson Citizen
Nov  9,

Confusion in the courtroom, and letting loose my inner economist at a Suns game:

     One of the problems in establishing public policy through the courts is illustrated by the English-learner lawsuit. The plaintiff seeking additional funding is singular and focused. Yet there isn't a clear defendant in the case, with a comparable focus.

The named defendants are the state of Arizona, the superintendent of public instruction and the state Board of Education. Attorney General Terry Goddard is handling the main defense and says he is representing the "state." Which means that he is, in some respects, his own client.

But Goddard wasn't elected to establish education policy for the state, including the curriculum and funding for English learners. That's a shared responsibility among the governor, the Legislature, the superintendent of public instruction and the state board, elements of which are at loggerheads. Funding is in the domain ultimately of the governor and the Legislature, who aren't named defendants.

The result is a muddled opposition, illustrated by the plea by Goddard's attorney at last week's hearing, that the judge in the case give more explicit guidance as to what he might find acceptable.

That's a manifestly bad idea. The judge is hardly an expert on the state's school finance system.

That's why these issues don't belong in court in the first place. And why the central strategic error in this case was in not appealing the initial decision five years ago that Arizona's program of English language acquisition violated federal law.

     My sons - two in college, one in eighth grade - were planning to go to the Suns' season opener last week. The eldest had a fit of responsibility about a calculus test the next day and begged off, so I was a last-minute substitute.

While we were checking the arena's Jungle (basically a play area for smaller kids), so was Suns owner Robert Sarver. My middle boy approached him about having a picture taken with both of them wearing Sarver's famous foam fingers. Sarver was a good sport and posed with him.

We were in the rafters, literally the highest row in the arena, at $50 a pop. I noticed that there were a number of empty seats around.

That set my inner, amateur economist to musing. Why not have a game-day electronic auction for unsold, single-game seats?

It probably wouldn't cannibalize full-price, single-game tickets much. It would add revenue by increasing the number of seats sold with each seat going for close to its maximum price for that game. It would enhance public good will by enabling fans to see some games at a discount, potentially a deep one.

Modern technology - a Web auction, credit or debit card sales only, and e-tickets - would seem fully able to accommodate it.

Besides, the rafter seats - once you get used to them - aren't bad. Even from there, I thought I saw the game better than the referees.

Robert Robb, an Arizona Republic columnist, writes about public policy and politics in Arizona. E-mail: