Posted by Rich Phillips
In its weekly order list on February 19, 2016, the Supreme Court of Texas granted the motion for rehearing in No. 13-0303, Harris County Flood Control District v. Kerr. Our prior coverage of the opinion is here. This appeal arises from an inverse condemnation claim in which 400 plaintiffs claim that the county and the flood control district caused the plaintiffs' home to flood by approving new development without requiring flood mitigation. In a 5-4 opinion, the Court affirmed the denial of the defendants' pleas to the jurisdiction finding fact issues on whether: (1) the government entities knew that unmitigated development would lead to flooding; (2) they approved development without appropriately mitigating it; and (3) this caused the flooding. The Court received more than a dozen amicus curiae briefs and letters in connection with the motion for rehearing. The Court did not issue a new opinion or schedule argument. Because the motion for rehearing was filed on August 28, 2015, it would have been overruled by operation of law on February 24 (180 days after the motion was filed). See Tex. Const. art. 5, § 31(d).
The Court also granted four petitions for review:
No. 15-005, Oncor Electric v. Pub. Util. Co. of Tex. - This appeal of a suit for judicial review of an administrative ratemaking decision by the Public Utility Commission of Texas regarding the rates of Oncor Electric Delivery Company involves eight parties as petitioners or respondents. Among the issues presented are whether the Commission erred in declining to apply a Consolidated Tax-Savings Adjustment to Oncor's federal income-tax expenses, whether a statutory provision requiring electric utilities to discount charges to public universities applies to all utilities or only utilities with no retail electric competition, and whether franchise fee payments in excess of a statutory formula are per se unreasonable or whether municipalities and utilities may mutually agree to a different level of payments than provided by the statutory formula.
No. 15-0056, Brady v. Klentzman - In this case, the Fort Bend County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy was accused of abusing his power to protect his son from a minor-in-possession charge, and after the charge was dismissed, taking actions to conceal the facts. In an article seeking to expose the deputy's actions, a local paper made several allegedly defamatory statements about the deputy's son. This appeal examines to what degree allegedly defamatory statements and allegations about a private citizen must be related to a genuine issue of public concern before the actual malice standard is imposed on a defamation plaintiff.
- No. 15-0073, Paxton v. City of Dallas (consolidated with No. 15-0238, Paxton v. City of Dallas) - These consolidated cases arise from a dispute between the city and the attorney general about the intersection of the Public Information Act and the attorney-client privilege. The primary issues are whether the attorney-client privilege or the potential harm to the City's negotiating position on a multi-million dollar project are compelling reasons to withhold the City’s attorney client-privileged communications when the City's request for a ruling by the attorney general was made after deadlines in section 552.301.
- No. 15-0404, B.C. v. Steak n Shake Operations, Inc. - The primary issue is whether the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act's statutory remedy for sexual harassment preempts an employee's common-law claim for sexual assault by a supervisor. The trial court granted summary judgment against the plaintiff and the court of appeals affirmed. The respondent also argues that even if the claims are not preempted, the summary judgment should be affirmed on alternative grounds.
Argument has not yet been scheduled for these cases.