Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe
Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe (Matthew Teuten)

Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe on Thursday signed on as an adviser to Students Matter, the group that won a lawsuit in June striking down California’s teacher tenure law.

Adding the liberal Tribe to its roster continues the momentum of the group that has sought to redefine teacher tenure as harmful to poor and disadvantaged young people.

“As we look at bringing additional education litigation in states across the country, Professor Tribe’s remarkable experience as one of our nation’s foremost constitutional experts will provide a unique and important perspective,” said David Welch, the organization’s founder.

The group mounted the lawsuit Vergara v. California, in which a California Superior Court judge declared that aspects of the state teacher tenure law violated the state constitution’s guarantee of the right to equal education.

“My own life was shaped by the guidance of inspiring, dedicated teachers who helped me realize my potential,” Tribe said in a written statement. “Every student deserves teachers like that. By working with Students Matter, I plan to do my part to ensure that our education system encourages quality teachers in every classroom, every day.”

Legal challenges to tenure have drawn sharp criticism from teachers’ unions that are a mainstay of Democratic and liberal organizations. The decision by a liberal legal icon like Tribe to join the effort was not the only recent “strange bedfellow” move.

Earlier this month David Boies of Boies, Schiller & Flexner, a lawyer with many liberal connections, became chairman of a New York group mounting litigation similar to the California lawsuit.

Highlighting the unusual alliance, Theodore Olson of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, usually aligned with causes far removed from Tribe’s, praised him in a written statement: “Professor Tribe is one of the most respected authorities on constitutional law in the United States. I look forward to working with him on this critical civil rights issue that crosses party and ideological lines.”

Contact Tony Mauro at tmauro@alm.com.