Articles Posted in Texas Supreme Court

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The Porretto family owned several acres of property between the Galveston Seawall and the Gulf of Mexico. Due to the State’s repeated recharacterization of the Porretto’s property as public property, the Porrettos had difficulty selling the property. The Porrettos sued the State, arguing that the State’s claims made it impossible for them to sell their property and therefore amounted to a compensable taking. The trial court held that the State’s actions had resulted in a compensable taking and awarded the Porrettos $5.012 million as damages for the lost market value of the property taken. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the State’s actions did not constitute a taking. The Supreme Court agreed with the court of appeals' conclusion that the State’s conduct did not constitute a taking and affirmed. View "Porretto v. Tex. Gen. Land Office" on Justia Law

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Shayn Proler, a firefighter with the Houston fire department, filed an administrative grievance seeking reassignment to a fire suppression unit under the terms of a collective bargaining agreement. After a hearing, Proler was reassigned to fire suppression. The City appealed, and Proler counterclaimed for disability discrimination. The trial court granted Proler’s plea to the jurisdiction. After a trial, the trial court entered judgment in favor of Proler on his disability claim. The court of appeals (1) reversed the order granting Proler’s plea to the jurisdiction insofar as the City claimed the hearing examiner exceeded his jurisdiction by awarding overtime compensation and insofar as the City requested declaratory judgment relief on this issue; and (2) affirmed the trial court’s judgment awarding injunctive relief and attorney fees to Proler on his disability discrimination claim. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed the court of appeals’ judgment reversing the order granting Proler’s plea to the jurisdiction; and (2) reversed the court of appeals’ judgment insofar as it affirmed the trial court’s judgment granting injunctive relief and attorney fees to Proler on his disability discrimination claim, as there was no evidence Proler was discriminated against on account of a disability. View "City of Houston v. Proler" on Justia Law

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The city of Laredo filed suit to condemn Respondents' property. A jury found that the City had no authorized public use for the property and awarded Respondents attorney's fees and expenses under Tex. Prop. Code 21.019(c), a fee-shifting statute that authorizes the trial court to award a property owner reasonable and necessary fees and expenses when condemnation is denied. The court of appeals reformed the award in part and, as reformed, affirmed. The City appealed, asking the Supreme Court to remand the attorney's fees award for reconsideration because of inadequacies in Respondents' proof. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that deficiencies remained in Respondents' proof of attorney's fees. Remanded. View "City of Laredo v. Montano" on Justia Law

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The Time Cole Act (Act) entitles a person who has been wrongfully imprisoned to compensation from the State. Payments terminate, however, if, after the date the person becomes eligible for compensation, the person is convicted of a crime punishable as a felony. Michael Blair had a lengthy criminal record. Blair was first convicted in 1988. In 1993, Blair was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. In 2004, Blair pleaded guilty to four indictments of indecency with a child, for which he was given three consecutive life sentences. In 2008, the court of criminal appeals set aside Blair's murder conviction based on DNA evidence, and the State dismissed the charge. Defendant subsequently applied for compensation for having been wrongfully incarcerated from 1993 to 2004. The Comptroller denied compensation. The Supreme Court concluded that the Comptroller correctly denied Blair's claim for compensation, holding that the Act does not require payments to a felon who remains incarcerated for a conviction that occurred before he became eligible for compensation. View "In re Blair" on Justia Law

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Juvenile was charged with attempted capital murder, aggravated assault on a public servant, and deadly conduct. The jury adjudicated Juvenile of aggravated assault and deadly conduct, assessing determinate sentences for forty years and ten years, respectively. The court of appeals affirmed the aggravated assault adjudication but reversed on deadly conduct, concluding that the trial court committed reversible error by submitting elements of the offense to the jury disjunctively, allowing for a non-uanimous verdict. The State appealed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the trial court's disjunctive jury instruction, given without objection, was not reversible error, as the harm to Juvenile, given the jury's other findings and the evidence, was only theoretical, not actual. View "In re L.D.C." on Justia Law

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This case involved an inverse-condemnation dispute over ten acres. At issue was who had title to the parcel: the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), the City of Edinburg (City), or API Pipe Supply and Paisano Service Company (collectively, API). In 2003, the trial court awarded the City a "fee title" to the property subject to a drainage easement granted to TxDOT. In 2004, the trial court entered a judgment purporting to render the 2003 judgment null and void. API claimed the judgment gave API fee-simple ownership, subject to a drainage easement granted to the City, and, via subsequent conveyance, to TxDOT. In 2005, TxDOT began its drainage project. API, relying on the 2004 judgment, brought a takings claim for the value of the removed soil. The trial court held in favor of API, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed and dismissed the suit, holding (1) the 2004 judgment was void and therefore could not supersede the valid 2003 judgment; (2) API was statutorily ineligible for "innocent purchaser" status, and equitable estoppel was inapplicable against the government in this case; and (3) because API held no interest in the land, API's takings claim failed. View "Dep't of Transp. v. A.P.I. Pipe & Supply, LLC" on Justia Law

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Landowner purchased property for the purpose of developing the land, obtained permits, and filled a portion of the property to the 100-year flood level. The municipality subsequently constructed a facility partly on the property that would detain storm water on the property in a significant flood, thus causing the property again to be below the 100-year flood level and undevelopable without additional fill. Landowner sought damages under statutory and inverse condemnation theories. The trial court ruled in favor of Landowner and awarded damages of $694,600. The court of appeals reversed as to the inverse condemnation claim, holding the claim was premature because the property had not yet flooded. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the claim was not premature because Landowner's claim was for the present inability to develop the property as previously approved unless the property was filled. Remanded. View "Kopplow Dev., Inc. v. City of San Antonio" on Justia Law

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The State brought an action for forfeiture of a vehicle and $90,235 found in it following a traffic stop, alleging that the property was contraband. The driver of the vehicle (Driver) answered the suit, asserting that he owned the property and requesting dismissal of the forfeiture action. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Driver. The court of appeals affirmed, holding that the State failed to present sufficient evidence that a substantial connection existed between the property and illegal drug dealing activities. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the determination of whether law enforcement officers had probable cause to seize the property, that is, a reasonable belief in a substantial connection between the property and illegal activities, must be assessed in light of the facts as the seizing officers reasonably believed them to be; and (2) Driver did not conclusively negate such a belief. Remanded. View "States v. Ninety Thousand Two Hundred Thirty-Five Dollars" on Justia Law

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A school district (District) obtained an in rem delinquent property tax judgment against an oil and gas lease that Respondent owned and operated. Respondent did not appeal, and the District foreclosed its judgment lien on the leasehold, taking ownership. The Railroad Commission ordered Respondent to plug a well on the lease. Respondent did not comply, and the Commission plugged the well and brought an enforcement action in court to recover the costs of the operation and the penalty. Respondent and the Commission settled. Respondent then sued the District, alleging in part that the District's actions had resulted in a taking of his property requiring compensation. The trial court dismissed Respondent's action for want of jurisdiction, but the court of appeals reversed and remanded with respect to the takings claim. The Supreme Court reversed and dismissed the case, holding that the trial court correctly dismissed Respondent's case, as Respondent did not assert on appeal that the District took his property without compensation. View "W. Hardin County Consol. Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Poole" on Justia Law

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The Texas Department of Criminal Justice Community Justice Assistance Division (TDCJ) brought this interlocutory appeal from the denial of its plea to the jurisdiction as to claims for damages related to actions of two county substance abuse treatment facility officers. The Supreme Court reversed and rendered judgment dismissing the claims against TDCJ for want of jurisdiction, holding (1) the claims against TDCJ based on the use of tangible property involved intent to accomplish intentional torts, and its plea to the jurisdiction as to those claims should have been granted; and (2) TDCJ's plea as to the remaining claims also should have been granted because there was no allegation that those claims resulted from the use of tangible property. View "Tex. Dep't of Criminal Justice v. Campos" on Justia Law