FRANKFORT, Ky. ― A Kentucky judge has blocked efforts by Republican Gov. Matt Bevin to replace the board of trustees at the University of Louisville, setting up a likely battle before the state Supreme Court.
The ruling from Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd on Wednesday permanently blocks an executive order Bevin issued earlier this year that replaced all of the members of the university’s board. Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear sued, arguing Bevin’s order was illegal.
“There is no legal or historical precedent for the Governor’s actions in abolishing and reconstituting the board of trustees of a public university,” Shepherd wrote.
Bevin’s actions have raised questions about the university’s accreditation. Belle Wheelan, the president of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, has ordered a formal review of the university because of “the potential for undue political influence.” That review will not take place until December.
The university is seeking to renew its accreditation next year.
“What our students and faculty need now is finality,” Beshear said in a news release. “That is why I am calling on Gov. Bevin to either accept the ruling and appoint trustees to the five openings, or agree to move this case immediately to the Kentucky Supreme Court.”
A spokeswoman for Bevin did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
It is the second defeat for Bevin in a week in his battles with Beshear. Last week, the state Supreme Court ruled Bevin could not cut the budgets of state colleges and universities without the approval of the state legislature. Beshear sued to stop Bevin in that case, too. Shepherd wrote the Supreme Court’s decision last week “compels” him to rule against Bevin in this case.
“Although that decision is not yet final, the principles adopted in that case mirror the prior ruling of this Court that public universities, as quasi-independent corporate bodies, are not directly subject to the Governor’s executive power in matters of budget and organization,” Shepherd wrote.