Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Texas

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The Tarrant Regional Water District supplies water to two million Texans across 11 counties and is a governmental agency with the power of eminent domain. In 2010, the Water District and the City of Dallas approved a financing agreement to build a 150-mile pipeline to transport water owned by Dallas in Lake Palestine to the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Construction began in 2014. The proposed route crosses the 1,000-acre LazyW Ranch five miles northwest of Athens in Henderson County, with a 150-foot-wide underground easement, about 3,375 feet long, covering 11.623 acres. The owner, Bennett, opposed to the project, obtained legislation creating the LazyW District, a municipal utility district. Bennett sued the Water District for violating the Texas Open Meetings Act; the court of appeals concluded that the Water District was immune from suit. Bennett repeatedly tried, unsuccessfully, to replace incumbent board members who support the Project’s use of the Ranch and dedicated a small cemetery on the Ranch in the proposed pipeline's path. The Water District offered the Lazy W $169,218 for the easement, and when the offer was rejected, petitioned for condemnation. Bennett asserted governmental immunity. The court refused to proceed further without deciding whether the case should be dismissed. The court of appeals granted mandamus relief. The Supreme Court of Texas vacated, rejecting an argument that the trial court cannot rule on the Lazy W’s plea to the jurisdiction until the commissioners issue their award. It is important that the special commissioners convene and render an award expeditiously and without interference from the court. The trial court had the obligation to consider the Lazy W’s assertion of immunity when the plea to the jurisdiction was filed. View "In re Lazy W Dist. No. 1" on Justia Law

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The Town of Lakewood Village, a Type A general-law municipality in Denton County, has a population of 620; its extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ) extends one half-mile beyond its boundaries. Tex. Loc. Gov’t Code 42.021(a)(1). The ETJ encompasses part of the Sunrise Bay subdivision. Other parts of the Subdivision are within the city limits and ETJ of Little Elm, a home-rule city that has a larger population. When developers planned the subdivision in the mid-1990s, Little Elm and Denton County approved the final plat. The developers did not file a plat with the Town, which does not provide any services to the Subdivision. Little Elm provides water to the Subdivision. Little Elm and Denton County maintain its roads. In 2013, Bizios purchased a Subdivision lot, located entirely within the Town’s ETJ. Bizios obtained approvals and permits from Denton County, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Subdivision’s architectural review committee. The County inspected the construction. Bizios did not obtain building permits from the Town, although its ordinances adopt building codes and make them enforceable within its ETJ. The Town filed suit after Bizios ignored its orders to stop construction. The trial court granted the Town a temporary injunction. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court of Texas agreed that a Type A general-law municipality does not have authority to enforce its building codes and building-permit requirements within its extraterritorial jurisdiction. View "Town of Lakewood Village v. Bizios" on Justia Law

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Coyote Lake Ranch, about 40 square miles, in the Texas Panhandle, is used for agriculture, raising cattle, and hunting. It is primarily grass-covered sand dunes, with some is irrigated cropland. Water comes from the Ogallala Aquifer, the principal source of water for the Texas High Plains, including the City of Lubbock, about 90 miles southeast of the Ranch. In 1953, during “‘one of the most devastating droughts in 600 years,’” the Ranch deeded its groundwater to the city, reserving water for domestic use, ranching operations, oil and gas production, and agricultural irrigation, by one or two wells in each of 16 specified areas. In 2012, the city announced plans to increase water-extraction efforts on the Ranch, drilling as many as 20 test wells in the middle of the Ranch, followed by 60 wells across the Ranch. The Ranch objected that the proposed drilling would increase erosion and injure the surface unnecessarily. The court of appeal dissolved a temporary injunction entered in favor of the Ranch. The Supreme Court of Texas remanded, agreeing that an injunction “so broad as to enjoin a defendant from activities which are a lawful and proper exercise of his rights” was an abuse of discretion. The court cited the accommodation doctrine as applicable to a interests in groundwater: a lessee has an implied right to use the land as necessary for production and removal of the resource, with due regard for the landowner’s rights. View "Coyote Lake Ranch, LLC v. City of Lubbock" on Justia Law