Justia Texas Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Education Law
Matthews v. Kountze Indep. Sch. Dist.
Middle school and high school cheerleaders, through their parents, sued Kountze Independent School District after the District prohibited them from displaying banners at school-sponsored events containing religious messages or signs. The District filed a plea to the jurisdiction, asserting mootness in light of its subsequent adoption of a resolution providing that the District was not required to prohibit religious messages on school banners. The trial court denied the District’s plea. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that Plaintiffs’ claims for declaratory and injunctive relief were moot because the District voluntarily discontinued its prohibition on the display of banners containing religious messages or signs. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that because the resolution only states that the District is not required to prohibit the cheerleaders from displaying religious messages on school banners and reserves to the District discretion in regulating those banners, this case was not moot, as the challenged conduct might reasonably be expected to recur. Remanded. View "Matthews v. Kountze Indep. Sch. Dist." on Justia Law
Tex. Student Housing Auth. v. Brazos County Appraisal Dist.
The Texas Student Housing Authority (TSHA) had title to the Cambridge at College Station, a student-residential facility near two college campuses. In the summers of 2005 to 2008, TSHA provided lodging at the Cambridge to non-college students attending university-sponsored instructional programs. The Brazos County Appraisal District (BCAD) voided TSHA’s property-tax-exempt status for the years 2005 to 2008 and assessed millions of dollars of back taxes. The trial court affirmed, concluding that TSHA forfeited the exemption once the Cambridge hosted people who were not students, faculty or staff members of an institution of higher learning. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that TSHA did not forfeit its exemption under Tex. Educ. Code Ann. 53.46 by housing summer program participants at the Cambridge because the statute imposes no conditions but rather declares the property-tax exemption in absolute terms. View "Tex. Student Housing Auth. v. Brazos County Appraisal Dist." on Justia Law
Univ. of Houston v. Barth
Plaintiff, a professor at the University of Houston, sued the University under the Texas Whistleblower Act. Plaintiff alleged that the University retaliated against him for reporting that his supervisor violated state civil and criminal law and internal administrative policies located in the University's System administrative Memorandum (SAM). The trial court rendered judgment in favor of Plaintiff. The court of appeals affirmed, holding that the trial court had subject-matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff's claim because the SAM's administrative policies constitute "law" under the Whistleblower Act. The Supreme Court reversed and dismissed for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, holding (1) the SAM's administrative rules do not fall within the definition of "law" under the Whistleblower Act because there is no evidence the University's Board of Regents enacted the SAM's administrative rules pursuant to authority granted to it in the Texas Education Code; (2) there was no evidence that Plaintiff had an objectively reasonable belief that his reports of the alleged violations of state civil and criminal law were made to an appropriate law enforcement authority; and (3) therefore, the University's sovereign immunity was not waived in this case. View "Univ. of Houston v. Barth" on Justia Law
LTTS Charter School, Inc. v. C2 Construction, Inc.
LTTS Charter School ("LTTS") was an open-enrollment school that retained C2 Construction, Inc. ("C2") to build school facilities at a site Universal Academy had leased. C2 filed a breach of contract suit and Universal Academy filed a plea to the jurisdiction claiming immunity from suit. The trial court denied the plea and Universal Academy brought an interlocutory appeal under Section 51.014(a)(8) of the Civil Practice and Remedies Code. In the court of appeals, C2 moved to dismiss the interlocutory appeal, arguing that Universal Academy was note entitled to one because it was not a governmental unit under the Torts Claims Act ("Act"), Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code 101.001(3)(D). At issue was whether an open-enrollment charter school was a governmental unit as defined by Section 101.001(3)(D) and thus, able to take an interlocutory appeal from a trial court's denial of its plea to the jurisdiction. The court held that open-enrollment charter schools were governmental units for the Act purposes because the Act defined government unit broadly to include any other institution, agency, or organ of government derived from state law; the Education Code defined open-enrollment charters schools as part of the public school system, which were created in accordance with the laws of the state, subject to state laws and rules governing public schools and, together with governmental traditional public schools, have the primary responsibility for implementing the state's system of public education; and the Legislature considered open-enrollment charter schools to be governmental entities under a host of other laws outside the Education Code. Accordingly, because Universal Academy was a governmental unit under the Act, the court of appeals had jurisdiction to hear its interlocutory appeal under Section 51.014(a)(8). View "LTTS Charter School, Inc. v. C2 Construction, Inc." on Justia Law