In 1970, when Harold Ruvoldt Jr. challenged New Jersey’s school-funding law, he envisioned the ideal plaintiffs and found a close enough approximation in Betty and Kenneth Robinson. For her successor suit, Marilyn Morheuser seems to have been less choosy: although she told one parent that she was seeking families from a cross-section of educational backgrounds and economic circumstances, she does not seem to have matched prospective plaintiffs to a Ruvoldt-style checklist. Legally, the only essential element was that they attend public school in the four cities the Education Law Center had chosen as case studies in urban educational misery.
Unlike Ruvoldt, Morheuser did not seek to represent cities and school districts as well as schoolchildren. There were good legal and strategic reasons for this choice: as Morheuser had argued in seeking to neutralize Newark’s Sharif case, the interests of the adults who ran cities and schools did not always coincide with the interests of children. Furthermore, by representing students, Morheuser could keep at arm’s length the messy corruption and mismanagement allegations that the state was sure to make. But a psychological element may have come into play, as well. Attracted to moral clarity, Morheuser undoubtedly found it deeply satisfying to speak for victimized innocents—for the only people who bore no responsibility for the disastrous state of inner-city education.
Representing schoolchildren had a potential pitfall, however. Given the tortuous history of Robinson v. Cahill, the new case seemed likely to outlast the school days of at least some of the named plaintiffs, and until mid-1983, when the case was officially certified as a class action on behalf