Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Texas

by
Galveston County failed to rebut the presumed constitutionality of a statutory formula determining the taxable value of leased natural-gas compressors located in its jurisdiction. Further, Washington County was the taxable situs for the compressors. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeals, which held that the parties failed to produce summary judgment evidence demonstrating, as a matter of law, that the statutory formula was either a reasonable or an unreasonable method of calculating the compressors’ reasonable market value. The court of appeals also held that Galveston County was the taxable situs of the compressors. The Supreme Court held (1) the court of appeals erred by not rendering judgment that the County failed to rebut the presumed constitutionality of the valuation statutes; and (2) the legislature’s statutory taxation scheme sets situs in the county where the dealer does business, and therefore, Washington County was the proper taxable situs for the compressors. View "EXLP Leasing, LLC v. Galveston Central Appraisal District" on Justia Law

by
Both Bernard Morello and White Lion Holdings, LLC could be assessed civil penalties under the Texas Water Code for actions that Morello performed as an employee of White Lion. The court of appeals reversed the judgment of the trial court, holding that because the State failed to establish that Morello could be held individually liable as a matter of law for the alleged violations, the trial court erred in granting summary judgment for the State. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals and reinstated that of the trial court, holding (1) Morello was a “person” subject to penalties under the Water Code individually; (2) the court of appeals had jurisdiction over Morello’s appeal; and (3) the penalties assessed against Morello were not unconstitutional. View "State v. Morello" on Justia Law

by
In 2013, the Mayor of Houston directed that same-sex spouses of employees who have been legally married in another jurisdiction be afforded the same benefits as spouses of a heterosexual marriage. Plaintiffs, Houston taxpayers and voters, filed suit against the City and its Mayor challenging the Mayor’s directive authorizing expenditures and the City’s provision of benefits pursuant to that directive. Specifically, Plaintiffs argued that the Mayor’s directive authorizing the expenditures violated Texas’s and the City’s defense of marriage acts. The trial court granted a temporary injunction prohibiting the Mayor from furnishing benefits to persons who were married in other jurisdictions to City employees of the same sex. While Defendants’ interlocutory appeal was pending, the United States Supreme Court held in Obergefell v. Hodges, __ U.S. __ (2015) that states may not exclude same sex couples from civil marriage on the same terms and conditions as opposite sex couples. The court of appeals subsequently reversed the temporary injunction and remanded the case. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals’ judgment, vacated the trial court’s orders and remanded, holding that the court’s opinion and judgment imposed greater restrictions on remand the Obergefell and this court’s precedent required. View "Pidgeon v. Turner" on Justia Law

by
The Texas Democratic Party sued King Street Patriots (Defendant) alleging noncompliance with Election Code provisions imposing restraints and obligations on “political committees” and corporations. Defendant, in turn, argued that certain statutory provision impermissibly burdened its constitutional rights. The parties agreed to sever Defendant’s facial challenges from its as-applied challenges. Following severance, the trial court found the challenged Election Code provisions facially valid. The Court of Appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part, holding (1) legislatively enacted bans on corporate political contributions are constitutional under the First Amendment; (2) the Legislature’s public policy choice to authorize a private right of action passes constitutional muster; (3) the Election Code’s campaign contribution and political contribution definitions are not unconstitutionally vague; and (4) as to Plaintiff’s challenge to the Code’s political committee definitions, that issue is premature and prudentially unripe. Specifically, adjudication of Plaintiff’s facial challenge to the political committee definitions is premature because Plaintiff is not a political committee, and therefore, Plaintiff’s as-applied challenges should be adjudicated before facial constitutionality of the political committee definitions is determined. View "King Street Patriots v. Texas Democratic Party" on Justia Law

by
This case arose from an allegedly forged home-equity loan. Plaintiff sued the lenders, bringing several claims, including statutory fraud and violations of the Texas Finance Code and Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act. The trial court granted summary judgment for the lenders without stating its reasons. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part, holding that the court of appeals (1) properly affirmed summary judgment on Plaintiff’s constitutional forfeiture claim; and (2) erred in holding that Plaintiff’s remaining claims were barred on statute of limitations and waiver grounds. View "Kyle v. Strasburger" on Justia Law

by
Darin Spassoff and 6 Tool, LLC, formerly known as Dallas Dodgers Baseball Club, LLC (the Dodgers), sued Stephen Bedford for libel and business disparagement, among other claims. The claims arose from Bedford’s act of posting on Facebook allegations that his wife had engaged in an inappropriate relationship with the Dodgers’ batting coach. Bedford moved to dismiss all claims under the Texas Citizens Participation Act, asserting that Plaintiffs brought the claims to prevent him from engaging in constitutionally-protected activities. The trial court denied the motion. The court of appeals reversed the judgment in regards to all claims but Plaintiffs’ libel claim, concluding that Plaintiffs established a prima facie case for each essential element of their libel claim. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals’ judgment as to the libel claim, holding that Bedford’s statements were not defamatory per se, and the Dodgers did not establish damages by clear and specific evidence. View "Bedford v. Spassoff" on Justia Law

by
Galveston County Commissioners Court may set a salary range for a county judicial employee while letting Galveston County district judges decide if compensation within that range is reasonable. While the judicial branch may direct the Commissioners Court to set a new range, it cannot dictate a specific salary outside that range. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals’ judgment in this long-running dispute over who has the authority to set the compensation of a county judicial employee, holding that, in this case, the trial court lacked the authority to require a county judge to reinstate a county judicial employee at a specific salary, thus encroaching on the county’s legislative branch - the Commissioners Court. View "Honorable Mark Henry v. Honorable Lonnie Cox" on Justia Law

by
At issue in this case was whether the Commerce Clause’s limitations on a state’s power to tax interstate commerce bar property taxes levied on natural gas held in Texas without a destination while awaiting future resale and shipment to out-of-state customers. The court of appeals found the tax in this case valid. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) a nondiscriminatory tax on surplus gas held for future resale does not violate the Commerce Clause; and (2) the tax levied in this case withstands constitutional scrutiny, and because it does not violate the Commerce Clause, neither does it violate Tex. Tax Code 11.12, which provides a state-law exemption for taxes that would otherwise violate federal law. View "Etc Marketing, Ltd. v. Harris County Appraisal District" on Justia Law

by
Michael and Laura McIntyre, along with their children that were homeschooled, were criminally charged with contributing to truancy and failure to attend school. The McIntyres sued the District and its attendance officer, alleging that Defendants violated the McIntyres’ rights under both the Texas Constitution and United States Constitution. The District filed pleas, exceptions, and motions arguing that the McIntyres failed to exhaust their administrative remedies. The attendance officer invoked qualified immunity. The trial court denied relief. The court of appeals reversed in part and (1) dismissed the McIntyres’ state-law claims against the District and its attendance officer for the McIntyres’ failure to “exhaust their administrative remedies, and (2) dismissed the federal-law claims against the attendance officer based on qualified immunity. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals to the extent it dismissed Plaintiffs’ claims based on qualified immunity; but (2) reversed the judgment insofar as it dismissed the McIntyres’ claims for failure to exhaust administrative remedies, holding the Texas Education Code does not require administrative appeals when a person is allegedly aggrieved by violations of laws other than the state’s school laws, such as the state and federal Constitutions. View "McIntyre v. El Paso Indep. Sch. Dist." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs, about 400 homeowners whose homes were located in the upper White Oak Bayou watershed of Harris County, filed suit against the County, asserting a takings cause of action. Plaintiffs claim that the flooding of their homes was caused by the County’s approval of “unmitigated” upstream development, combined with a failure to fully implement the Pate Plan, a flood-control plan. The court of appeals affirmed the trial court's denial of the County's motion for summary judgment. The court concluded that, assuming all disputed facts in favor of the homeowners, the record is clear that the County never harbored a desire to cause flooding anywhere. In this case, assuming that a cause of the flooding was the affirmative act of approving private development, there indisputably were other causes: heavy rainfall, and, according to the homeowners themselves, the failure to fully implement the flood-control measures of the Pate Plan. The court concluded that the confluence of these circumstances does not give rise to a takings claim. Accordingly, the court reversed and rendered judgment dismissing the case. View "Harris Cnty. Flood Control Dist. v. Kerr" on Justia Law