Resource: Public Managers, Judges, and Legislators: Redefining the "New Partnership"

By: Rosemary O'Leary & Charles R. Wise

July 1, 1991

What are the implications of the Supreme Court's Missouri v. Jenkins decision for American public administration? In that landmark 1990 decision, the Court affirmed afederal district court order imposing local property tax increases for Kansas City, Missouri, residents as a means of raising funds for desegregation efforts by the local school district. In this article, Rosemary O'Leary and Charles Wise examine the significance of that decision for the "new partnership" that has emerged in recent decades between judges and administrators. Based on interviews with residents and school district personnel as well as archival and legal research, the authors find that the decision bas recast the role of public administrators operating under court orders. In this case, court decisions empowered and legitimized actions by school administrators, as well as enhanced resources available to the school system. Equally important were the decision's impacts on the ability of local administrators to set priorities and control implementation. In addition, interorganization relations bave become problematic and new accountability mechanisms pose constant challenges. O'Leary and Wise also observe that by sanctioning court-ordered taxation, Missouri v. Jenkins may have also expanded the new partnership into a "new trumvirate" that includes legislative bodies. Wbateverform these new relationships take, however, it is clear to the authors that the courts are the senior partners.