Justia Civil Rights Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Texas Supreme Court
In re Nestle USA, Inc.
Since first imposing a franchise tax in 1893, the Legislature restructured it several times, drawing various distinctions among taxpayers with adjustments, deductions, and exemptions that became elaborate. Petitioner in this original proceeding contended that the franchise tax bore no reasonable relationship to its object, the value of the privilege of doing business in Texas, and therefore it violated the Texas Constitution's mandate that "taxation shall be equal and uniform," the Fourteenth Amendment's equal protection and due process guarantees, and the U.S. Constitution's Commerce Clause. The Supreme Court denied the petition, holding (1) Petitioner failed to establish that the franchise tax violates the Equal and Uniform Clause; (2) the failure of Petitioner's challenge based on the Equal and Uniform Clause foreclosed its equal protection challenge; (3) the franchise tax does not violate due process; and (4) the manufacturing rate does not discriminate against interstate commerce and is fairly related to the services provided by Texas. View "In re Nestle USA, Inc." on Justia Law
Enbridge Pipelines L.P. v. Avinger Timber, LLC
This case involved a dispute over the fair market value of acreage on which a gas processing facility was located. At issue was whether the trial court abused its discretion by admitting an expert's testimony that allegedly violated the value-to-the-taker rule, which prohibits measuring land's value by its unique value to a condemnor in determining a landowner's compensation. The court of appeals concluded that the trial court did not abuse its discretion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the expert's testimony violated the rule because it impermissibly focused on the condemnor's interest in retaining the property and was therefore inadmissible. Remanded. View "Enbridge Pipelines L.P. v. Avinger Timber, LLC" on Justia Law
City of Beaumont v. Como
The City notified a building owner that her property was in disrepair and that, unless she repaired it, the City might demolish it. After the owner failed to remedy the problem, the City declared the property a public nuisance and condemned it. Rather than appeal the nuisance determination, the property owner asserted a takings claim after the demolition. The City field an immunity-based plea to the jurisdiction, which the trial court granted. The court of appeals reversed in part, holding that the administrative-level decision to demolish the owner's property did not preclude her from seeking a de novo review of that decision in a constitutional suit. The Supreme Court reversed in part and rendered judgment dismissing the owner's claims, holding that because the owner never appealed her nuisance determination, her takings claims were barred, and the trial court correctly dismissed them. View "City of Beaumont v. Como" on Justia Law
Prairie View A&M Univ. v. Chatha
Respondent, a professor at Prairie View A&M University, filed a complaint with the EEOC and the Texas Workforce Commission civil rights division (TWC), alleging race and nationality-based pay discrimination, about two years after her promotion to full professor. Respondent subsequently filed suit against the University in state court under the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act (TCHRA). The University filed a plea to the jurisdiction, asserting Respondent's complaint was untimely filed pursuant to the 180-day limitations period under the TCHRA. The trial court denied the University's plea. The court of appeals affirmed, holding that the federal Ledbetter Act, which provides that the limitations period begins anew each time a claimant receives a paycheck containing a discriminatory amount, applies to claims brought under the TCHRA, and Respondent's claim was therefore timely because she received a paycheck containing an alleged discriminatory amount within 180 days of the date she filed her complain with the TWC. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the Ledbetter Act does not apply to a claim brought under the TCHRA; and (2) because Respondent failed to timely file her complaint with the TWC, her suit was jurisdictionally barred.
In re Commitment of Bohannan
Michael Wayne Bohannan pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated rape with a deadly weapon. Upon being released on mandatory supervision, Bohannan was thrice returned to prison for sexual crimes. After receiving a psychologist's report that Bohannan was a sexually violent predator (SVP), the State petitioned for his commitment. After a jury trial, the trial court issued an order of civil commitment. Bohannan appealed, contending that the trial court's exclusion of certain testimony on the basis that the expert was "not qualified to present an opinion" on whether someone is an SVP was error. The court of appeals determined that the exclusion of the testimony was harmful error and remanded the case for a new trial. The Supreme Court affirmed, though for different reasons, holding that the trial court abused its discretion in excluding the testimony on the grounds that the expert was not a physician or psychologist rather than examining her experience and training, and the exclusion was harmful.
Hearts Bluff Game Ranch, Inc. v. State
As tasked by the Legislature, the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) identified potential reservoir sites. Hearts Bluff Game Ranch, Inc. purchased some of the wetlands on one of the sites identified by the TWDB as a potential reservoir location. When the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied its application for a mitigation banking permit because the State had identified the site as a potential reservoir, Hearts Bluff sued the State and the Corps for a taking for interfering with its asserted right to commercially develop the land as a mitigation bank. At issue was whether a takings claim against the State may be predicated on the denial of a permit by the federal government when the State had no authority to grant or deny the permit. The trial court denied the State's plea to the jurisdiction, which alleged that Hearts Bluff failed to plead a valid takings claim. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that absent demonstrating bad faith, Hearts Bluff did not establish the existence of jurisdiction in this case because it did not establish a viable takings claim.
Mission Consol. Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Garcia
After Employer fired her, Plaintiff filed suit, alleging that she was discriminated against based on her race, national origin, age, and gender. Employer filed a plea to the jurisdiction, arguing that Plaintiff's pleadings failed to establish a prima facie case of discrimination because Plaintiff was replaced by another Mexican-American woman who was three years older than Plaintiff. The trial court denied Employer's plea. The court of appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding that the plea should have been granted on the age-discrimination, as replacement by an older worker was not fatal to Plaintiff's claim. The Supreme Court reversed and dismissed the suit, holding (1) to establish a prima facie case of age discrimination under the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act (TCHRA), a plaintiff in a true replacement case must show she was (i) a member of the protected class, (ii) qualified for her employment position, (iii) terminated by the employer, and (iv) replaced by someone younger; and (2) because Plaintiff here was replaced by an older worker, she failed to allege a prima facie case, and the trial court should have granted Defendant's plea to the jurisdiction.
York v. State
Petitioner claimed a trailer was his, but, upon evidence the trailer was stolen, the justice court awarded the trailer to the State. Later, Petitioner filed for bankruptcy and scheduled the trailer as an asset of his estate. Petitioner also sued for damages for the lost use of his property as a constitutionally compensable taking. The trial court dismissed the case for want of jurisdiction, concluding that the justice court judgment was not void but was only voidable, and the judgment was voidable only if the bankruptcy court made certain determinations. The court of appeals reversed, holding (1) a judgment rendered in violation of the automatic stay is void, not merely voidable, and a state court has jurisdiction to make that determination, even though the bankruptcy court might later disagree; and (2) as to Petitioner's takings claim, subsisting fact issues precluded dismissal. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) a judgment that violates the automatic stay is void and subject to collateral attack in state court; but (2) the judicial award of property to the State was not, in these circumstances, a taking. Remanded.
In re Coy Reece
Relator was held in contempt of court and confined for perjuring himself during a deposition. At issue was whether a trial court could hold a litigant in contempt for perjury committed during a deposition and whether the court should exercise mandamus jurisdiction to provide a forum for a civil litigant who was deprived of liberty pursuant to a court's contempt order, and the Court of Criminal Appeals had declined to exercise its habeas jurisdiction. The court held that the trial court abused its discretion where such perjury did not obstruct the operation of the court. The court also held that relator had no adequate remedy by appeal where the underlying suit was civil in nature and the Court of Appeals declined to grant relator leave to file a habeas petition in that court. Accordingly, mandamus was the appropriate remedy to correct the trial court's abuse of discretion and the court conditionally granted relief.
Ojo, et al. v. Farmers Group, Inc., et al.
Appellant, an African-American resident of Texas, sued appellees alleging that their credit-scoring systems employed several undisclosed factors which resulted in disparate impacts for minorities and violated the federal Fair Housing Act ("FHA"), 42 U.S.C. 3601, 3619. At issue, in a certified question, was whether Texas law permitted an insurance company to price insurance by using a credit-score factor that had a racially disparate impact that, were it not for the McCarran-Ferguson Act, 15 U.S.C. 1012(b), would violate the FHA, absent a legally sufficient nondiscriminatory reason, or would using such a credit-score factor violate Texas Insurance Code ("Code") sections 544.002(a), 559.051, 559.052, or some other provision of Texas law. The court answered the certified question by holding that Texas law did not prohibit an insurer from using race-neutral factors in credit-scoring to price insurance, even if doing so created a racially disparate impact.