Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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In this case concerning where taxes on compressors were due, the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the court of appeals, holding (1) Tex. Tax Code 23.1241 and 23.1242 controlled the taxable situs of the compressors at issue; and (2) Midland County was the taxable situs of the compressors. EXLP Leasing owned and leased out compressor stations used to deliver natural gas into pipelines. In response to a 2012 amendment to the Tax Code, EXLP began paying taxes on the compressors located in Loving County to Midland County. Loving County continued placing the compressors on its appraisal rolls at full market value, asserting that the compressors’ presence within the counties fixed taxable situs there. The appraisal review board sided with the county. The trial court agreed with the county, concluding that sections 23.1241 and 23.1242 were unconstitutional. The court of appeals held (1) the statutes are constitutional, and (2) the compressors’ taxable situs is Loving County. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) sections 23.1241 and 23.1242 control the taxable situs of the compressors; and (2) Midland County is the taxable situs of the compressors. View "Loving County Appraisal District v. EXLP Leasing LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the court of appeals, holding that Texas Tax Code 23.1241 and 23.1242 controlled the taxable situs of the compressors at issue in this case and that Midland County, rather than Ward County, was the taxable situs of the compressors. EXLP Leasing owned and leased out compressor stations used to deliver natural gas into pipelines. While some of the compressors were in use in Ward County, EXLP paid taxes on those compressors to Midland County in response to a 2012 amendment to Tax Code sections 23.1241 and 23.1242 that included leased heavy equipment in a statutory formula used to value heavy equipment held by dealers for sale. An appraisal review board agreed with Ward County that the compressors' presence in the county fixed taxable situs there. The trial court concluded (1) sections 23.1241 and 23.1242 are unconstitutional; (2) taxes on the compressors were due to Ward County; and (3) the compressors fell under the challenged statutory framework as “heavy equipment.” The court of appeals concluded that the statues were constitutional but otherwise affirmed. The Supreme Court held (1) the statutes are constitutional; (2) EXLP properly paid taxes on compressors in Midland County; and (3) the compressors met the statutory definition of “heavy equipment.” View "Ward County Appraisal District v. EES Leasing LLC" on Justia Law

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In this appeal of a condemnation judgment the Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals holding the trial court’s evidentiary rulings were an abuse of discretion and reinstated the judgment of the trial court. The State planned to condemn a portion of a 33,000 square-foot property owned by Stephen and Kimberly Morale in the Town of Little Elm. The special commissioners awarded the Morales $49,804 in damages for the taking. The Morales objected to the award and demanded a jury trial. The jury awarded $1,064,335 to the Morales, and the trial court essentially rendered judgment on the verdict. The court of appeals reversed and remanded for a new trial, holding that the trial court erroneously admitted and excluded various evidence at trial, thereby probably resulting in the rendition of an improper judgment. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the trial court’s challenged evidentiary rulings were not an abuse of discretion. View "Morale v. State" on Justia Law

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Relator, who was designated a sexually violent predator and civilly committed pursuant to the Civil Commitment of Sexually Violent Predators Act, was not entitled to appointed counsel in proceedings on the State’s motion to amend his civil commitment order to conform to the Act’s 2015 amendments. The trial court denied Relator’s request for appointed counsel on the State’s motion to modify Relator’s civil commitment order. The court of appeals granted mandamus relief to Relator, ordering the trial court to vacate its orders and appoint counsel to represent Relator in further proceedings on the State’s motion to modify. The Supreme Court conditionally granted the State’s petition for writ of mandamus, holding that Relator was not entitled to appointed counsel on the State’s motion to amend his civil commitment order to conform to the amended Act, and therefore, the court of appeals abused its discretion in granting Relator mandamus relief. View "In re State of Texas" on Justia Law

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Galveston County failed to rebut the presumed constitutionality of a statutory formula determining the taxable value of leased natural-gas compressors located in its jurisdiction. Further, Washington County was the taxable situs for the compressors. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeals, which held that the parties failed to produce summary judgment evidence demonstrating, as a matter of law, that the statutory formula was either a reasonable or an unreasonable method of calculating the compressors’ reasonable market value. The court of appeals also held that Galveston County was the taxable situs of the compressors. The Supreme Court held (1) the court of appeals erred by not rendering judgment that the County failed to rebut the presumed constitutionality of the valuation statutes; and (2) the legislature’s statutory taxation scheme sets situs in the county where the dealer does business, and therefore, Washington County was the proper taxable situs for the compressors. View "EXLP Leasing, LLC v. Galveston Central Appraisal District" on Justia Law

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Both Bernard Morello and White Lion Holdings, LLC could be assessed civil penalties under the Texas Water Code for actions that Morello performed as an employee of White Lion. The court of appeals reversed the judgment of the trial court, holding that because the State failed to establish that Morello could be held individually liable as a matter of law for the alleged violations, the trial court erred in granting summary judgment for the State. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals and reinstated that of the trial court, holding (1) Morello was a “person” subject to penalties under the Water Code individually; (2) the court of appeals had jurisdiction over Morello’s appeal; and (3) the penalties assessed against Morello were not unconstitutional. View "State v. Morello" on Justia Law

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Both Bernard Morello and White Lion Holdings, LLC could be assessed civil penalties under the Texas Water Code for actions that Morello performed as an employee of White Lion. The court of appeals reversed the judgment of the trial court, holding that because the State failed to establish that Morello could be held individually liable as a matter of law for the alleged violations, the trial court erred in granting summary judgment for the State. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals and reinstated that of the trial court, holding (1) Morello was a “person” subject to penalties under the Water Code individually; (2) the court of appeals had jurisdiction over Morello’s appeal; and (3) the penalties assessed against Morello were not unconstitutional. View "State v. Morello" on Justia Law

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In 2013, the Mayor of Houston directed that same-sex spouses of employees who have been legally married in another jurisdiction be afforded the same benefits as spouses of a heterosexual marriage. Plaintiffs, Houston taxpayers and voters, filed suit against the City and its Mayor challenging the Mayor’s directive authorizing expenditures and the City’s provision of benefits pursuant to that directive. Specifically, Plaintiffs argued that the Mayor’s directive authorizing the expenditures violated Texas’s and the City’s defense of marriage acts. The trial court granted a temporary injunction prohibiting the Mayor from furnishing benefits to persons who were married in other jurisdictions to City employees of the same sex. While Defendants’ interlocutory appeal was pending, the United States Supreme Court held in Obergefell v. Hodges, __ U.S. __ (2015) that states may not exclude same sex couples from civil marriage on the same terms and conditions as opposite sex couples. The court of appeals subsequently reversed the temporary injunction and remanded the case. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals’ judgment, vacated the trial court’s orders and remanded, holding that the court’s opinion and judgment imposed greater restrictions on remand the Obergefell and this court’s precedent required. View "Pidgeon v. Turner" on Justia Law

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The Texas Democratic Party sued King Street Patriots (Defendant) alleging noncompliance with Election Code provisions imposing restraints and obligations on “political committees” and corporations. Defendant, in turn, argued that certain statutory provision impermissibly burdened its constitutional rights. The parties agreed to sever Defendant’s facial challenges from its as-applied challenges. Following severance, the trial court found the challenged Election Code provisions facially valid. The Court of Appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and vacated in part, holding (1) legislatively enacted bans on corporate political contributions are constitutional under the First Amendment; (2) the Legislature’s public policy choice to authorize a private right of action passes constitutional muster; (3) the Election Code’s campaign contribution and political contribution definitions are not unconstitutionally vague; and (4) as to Plaintiff’s challenge to the Code’s political committee definitions, that issue is premature and prudentially unripe. Specifically, adjudication of Plaintiff’s facial challenge to the political committee definitions is premature because Plaintiff is not a political committee, and therefore, Plaintiff’s as-applied challenges should be adjudicated before facial constitutionality of the political committee definitions is determined. View "King Street Patriots v. Texas Democratic Party" on Justia Law

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This case arose from an allegedly forged home-equity loan. Plaintiff sued the lenders, bringing several claims, including statutory fraud and violations of the Texas Finance Code and Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act. The trial court granted summary judgment for the lenders without stating its reasons. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part, holding that the court of appeals (1) properly affirmed summary judgment on Plaintiff’s constitutional forfeiture claim; and (2) erred in holding that Plaintiff’s remaining claims were barred on statute of limitations and waiver grounds. View "Kyle v. Strasburger" on Justia Law