Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Texas

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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The Texas Medical Board disciplined Minda Lao Toledo, a physician, for unprofessional conduct and issued a press release regarding the matter. After KBMT Operating Company aired a report of the Board’s action Toledo sued KMBT and three of its employees (collectively, KBMT) for defamation. KBMT filed a motion to dismiss under the Texas Citizens Participation Act, which allows for the early dismissal of a legal action implicating a defendant’s rights of free speech unless the plaintiff can establish each element of the claim with clear and specific evidence. The trial court denied the motion. The court of appeals affirmed, ruling that Toledo established a prima facie case of defamation. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the truth of a media report of official proceedings of public concern must be measured against the proceedings themselves and not against information outside the proceedings; and (2) in this case, Toledo did not meet her burden of establishing a prima facie case that KBMT’s broadcast was false, and therefore, the Act requires that Toledo’s action be dismissed. View "KBMT Operating Co., LLC v. Toledo" on Justia Law

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Garofolo took out a $159,700 home-equity loan. She made timely payments and paid off the loan in, 2014. Ocwen had become the note’s holder. A release of lien was promptly recorded in Travis County, but Garofolo did not receive a release of lien in recordable form as required by her loan’s terms. Garofolo notified Ocwen she had not received the document. Upon passage of 60 days following that notification, and still without the release, Garofolo sued, alleging violation of the home-equity lending provisions of the Texas Constitution and breach of contract. She sought forfeiture of all principal and interest paid on the loan. The federal district court dismissed. The Fifth Circuit certified questions of law to the Texas Supreme Court, which responded that the constitution lays out the terms and conditions a home equity loan must include if the lender wishes to foreclose on a homestead following borrower default, but does not create a constitutional cause of action or remedy for a lender’s breach of those conditions. A post-origination breach of terms and conditions may give rise to a breach-of-contract claim for which forfeiture can sometimes be an appropriate remedy. When forfeiture is unavailable, the borrower must show actual damages or seek some other remedy such as specific performance. View "Garofolo v. Ocwen Loan Serv., L.L.C." on Justia Law

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More than half of the State’s school districts and various entities and individuals brought this school funding challenge arguing, among other things, that the current school finance system violates the adequacy and suitability requirements of Tex. Const. art. VII, 1. The trial court declared the school system constitutionally inadequate, unsuitable and financially inefficient in violation of Article VII, section 1, that the system is unconstitutional as a statewide ad valorem tax in violation of Tex. Const. art. VIII, 1(e), and that the system does not meet constitutional adequacy and suitability requirements for two subgroups of students. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the current school funding regime meets minimum constitutional requirements, despite its imperfections. View "Morath v. Texas Taxpayer & Student Fairness Coalition" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was amendments to a Houston air-quality ordinance (the Ordinance). BCCA Appeal Group filed suit seeking a declaratory judgment that Ordinance was invalid and unenforceable under the Texas Clean Air Act, the Water Code, and the Texas Constitution. The trial court granted summary judgment for BCCA, concluding that the Ordinance violated the Texas Constitution and was preempted by the Act, and enjoined the City from enforcing the Ordinance. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the Ordinance was consistent with the Act and the Water Code and did not violate the nondelegation doctrine of the Texas Constitution by incorporating Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) rules in such a way as to include future amendments. The Supreme Court reversed in part and affirmed in part, holding (1) the Ordinance’s enforcement provisions and registration requirement are preempted and therefore unenforceable; but (2) the Ordinance’s incorporation of TCEQ rules does not violate the nondelegation doctrine of the Texas Constitution. View "BCCA Appeal Group, Inc. v. City of Houston" on Justia Law