Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Texas
by
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the decision of the trial court to grant a temporary injunction in favor of the Houston Independent School District prohibiting the Texas Education Agency Commissioner and his appointed conservator from continuing to supervise the school district pending a final trial, holding that the District was not entitled to injunctive relief.While law permits the Commissioner to assist in improving a school district's performance through a variety of remedial measures, in question in this case was under what circumstances the Commissioner may supervise the Houston Independent School District (the District). Based on the results of an accreditation investigation, the Commissioner notified the District that it planned to appoint a board of managers for the District. The District filed petition seeking a temporary injunction barring the Commissioner from taking regulatory actions against it because the Education Code did not authorize the planned remedial measures. The trial court granted the petition, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed and directed the trial court to consider the Commissioner's plea to the jurisdiction, holding that the District's claims did not support a temporary injunction against the Commissioner and his conservator. View "Texas Education Agency v. Houston Independent School District" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the trial court and court of appeals holding that the law grants authority to decide whether a statutory probate court judge receives a supplemental salary for serving as the local administrative statutory probate court judge to the statutory probate court judge, not the county commissioners court, holding that the lower courts erred.Plaintiff, judge of the Galveston County statutory probate court and the county's local administrative statutory probate court judge, filed this suit against the commissioners court's members in their official capacities, arguing that Defendants abused their discretion by acting arbitrarily and capriciously in striking from the county budget Plaintiff's supplemental salary for her services as the local administrative statutory probate judge. The trial court entered judgment in favor of Plaintiff, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Texas law grants commissioners the authority to decide whether to pay Plaintiff a supplemental salary; and (2) Plaintiff failed to establish any basis to find that the commissioners abused that discretion. View "Henry v. Sullivan" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the trial court permanently enjoining the Texas Department of State Health Services from enforcing a new Texas law that prohibited the processing and manufacturing of smokable hemp products, holding that Plaintiffs were not entitled to relief.In their complaint, Plaintiffs - Texas-based entities that manufacture, process, distribute, and sell hemp products - argued that Tex. Const. art. I, 19 invalidated the challenged law and sought an injunction prohibiting Defendant from enforcing the law. The trial court declared that Tex. Health & Safety Code 443.202(4) violated the Texas Constitution and that 25 Tex. Admin. Code 300.104 was invalid in its entirety and enjoined Defendant from enforcing the statute or the rule. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Plaintiffs' complaints did not assert the deprivation of an interest substantively protected by the Texas Constitution's due course clause. View "Texas Department of State Health Services v. Crown Distributing LLC" on Justia Law

by
In 2010, Houston voters approved “Proposition One,” allowing the city to create a “Pay-As-You-Go” Dedicated Drainage and Street Renewal (DDSR) Fund. Perez and others filed an election contest while the city enacted the Drainage Fee Ordinance (DFO), creating a new public utility and requiring Houston to establish drainage fees “against all real property in the city subject to such charges” and “provide drainage for all real property in the city on payment of drainage charges unless the property is exempt.” The DFO based the drainage fees on the benefited property’s type and square footage. Failure to pay drainage fees carried various penalties.In 2015, the Supreme Court held that Proposition One’s ballot language was misleading, rendering the Amendment invalid. Perez then challenged Houston’s assessment, collection, and expenditure of the drainage fee. In 2018, Houston passed a new charter amendment curing many of the defects Perez alleged in the drainage fee ordinance. Perez was left with ongoing claims for reimbursement of the drainage fees she paid before 2018 and for an injunction against the future expenditure of fees collected before 2018. The Texas Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal of those claims but remanded to allow Perez to replead in light of intervening events. Perez’s claims required her to articulate a viable theory of the DFO’s illegality to overcome Houston’s governmental immunity; her only theory failed as a matter of law. View "Perez v. Turner" on Justia Law

by
TexCom sought to develop a commercial-waste-disposal facility on a 27-acre site in Montgomery County, near Conroe, that had one existing nonoperative injection well. TexCom sought to operate the existing well and construct up to three additional wells. Class I underground injection-control wells manage industrial waste by injecting it thousands of feet underground but can potentially harm drinking water and petroleum, so these injection wells undergo an extensive permitting process with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). A permit application must be accompanied by a letter from the Railroad Commission (RRC) concluding that the proposed wells “will not endanger or injure any known oil or gas reservoir.” RRC issued such a letter for TexCom but rescinded it after six years of administrative hearings, around the same time TCEQ issued its final order granting the permit application.The Texas Supreme Court affirmed TCEQ’s order granting the permit application as supported by substantial evidence; a migration finding, combined with the injection zone’s geological suitability, is sufficient to support TCEQ’s ultimate finding that the wells would be protective of water. The rescission did not deprive TCEQ of jurisdiction, and, on these facts, TCEQ did not violate the Texas Administrative Procedure Act by declining to reopen the administrative record for further proceedings. View "Dyer v. Texas Commission on Environmental Quality" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals dismissing this case asserting that the city of Houston's house mayor and city council members acted ultra vires in spending tax revenue in Fiscal Year 2020 on anything other than the drainage fund, holding that the taxpayers had standing to assert their claims and sufficiently pleaded ultra vires acts.Plaintiffs, two Houston taxpayers, brought this case alleging that City officials misallocated tax revenue because the City Charter requires a certain amount of tax revenue to be allocated to a fund exclusively for drainage and street maintenance and that the officials acted ultra vires in spending the revenue on anything else. The officials filed a plea to the jurisdiction asserting governmental immunity. The trial court denied the plea. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the taxpayers lacked standing. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Plaintiffs alleged an illegal expenditure sufficient to support taxpayer standing; and (2) the City officials were not entitled to dismissal of Plaintiffs' ultra vires claim on governmental immunity grounds at this time. View "Jones v. Turner" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court held that, absent a clear abuse of discretion, governmental immunity protects a zoning commission's determination that a proposed subdivision conforms with applicable law.After the City of Georgetown's Planning and Zoning Commission approved a preliminary plat for a new 89-home subdivision neighboring Escalera Ranch, a subdivision to the north the Escalera Ranch Owners' Association sued the Commission members, asserting that their approval of the plat was a clear abuse of discretion. The trial court granted the Commissioners' plea to the jurisdiction, concluding that the Association lacked standing to sue. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Commissioners adhered to their duty in determining that the preliminary plat conformed to the applicable standards. View "Schroeder v. Escalera Ranch Owners' Ass'n" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court held that the Texas Medical Board is not required by federal law or permitted by Texas law to merely revise an initial report of a temporary sanction, rather than void it, when the Board later finds that the allegations have not been proved.Federal and State law require the Board to report a disciplinary action against a physician to the National Practitioner Data Bank to restrict the ability of incompetent physicians to move from state to state. The Board issued a temporary sanction against Dr. Robert Wayne Van Boven while it investigated misconduct allegations. The Board then issued a final order concluding that Van Boven was not subject to sanctions. Van Bovcen brought this ultra vires action against Board officials directing them to file a Void Report with the Data Bank, which would remove the initial report against him and a subsequent revision-to-action report from disclosure. The trial court denied Defendants' plea to the jurisdiction asserting sovereign immunity. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Board officials' actions in this case were ultra vires and that the officials were not immune from Van Boven's claims. View "Van Boven v. Freshour" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court held that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality's (TCEQ) general jurisdiction over water and water rights, including the issuance of water rights permits and water rights adjudication, does not include the authority to adjudicate conflicting claims to ownership of surface-water rights.Plaintiff brought this complaint seeking declarations that it was the sole owner of certain surface-water rights. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss the claims for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, arguing that TCEQ has exclusive original jurisdiction to determine water-ownership rights. The trial court granted the motion to dismiss and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that TCEQ lacks jurisdiction to decide conflicting claims of ownership to surface-water rights and that the adjudication of such claims is for the courts. View "Pape Partners, Ltd. v. DRR Family Properties LP" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals concluding that substantial evidence did not support the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality's (TCEQ) decision granting an application filed by Dos Republicas Coal Partnership (DRCP) seeking renewal of a permit for wastewater discharge at a coal mine, holding that DRCP was the correct permit applicant.At the time of this dispute, TCEQ rules required both the operator and the owner of the facility to apply for a permit. DRCP owned the mine, but the dispute was whether DRCP or the contractor it hired to conduct day-to-day activities at the time was the mine's "operator." TCEQ concluded that DRCP was the mine's operator. The court of appeals disagreed, ruling that the application lacked the required applicant and should have been denied. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that DRCP was the entity responsible for the overall operation of the facility and was therefore the correct permit applicant. View "Texas Commission on Environment Quality v. Maverick County" on Justia Law