Justia Texas Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law
by
The Supreme Court reversed in part the judgment of the court of appeals concluding that the trial court lacked jurisdiction over an administrative order because E.A. did not move for rehearing before the administrative law judge and rejecting E.A.'s due process challenge based on the agency's misrepresentation of the proper procedure for judicial review, holding that E.A. was denied due process under the circumstances of this case. In Mosley v. Texas Health & Human Services Commission, __ S.W.3d __ (Tex. 2019), the Supreme Court held that, under the Administrative Procedures Act, a party seeking judicial review of an administrative order must first move for rehearing before the administrative law judge unless another governing statute provides otherwise. This appeal presented the issues decided in Mosley. The Supreme Court (1) agreed with the court of appeals that the trial court lacked jurisdiction because E.A. did not seek rehearing of the order she challenged before the administrative law judge, but (2) held that the agency misrepresented the proper procedure for judicial review in a letter to E.A., thus denying E.A. due process. View "E.A. v. Texas Department of Family & Protective Services" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed in part the judgment of the court of appeals concluding that the trial court lacked jurisdiction over an administrative order because Cheryl Wallace did not move for rehearing before the administrative law judge and rejecting Wallace's due process challenge based on the agency's misrepresentation of the proper procedure for judicial review, holding that Wallace was denied due process. In Mosley v. Texas Health & Human Services Commission, __ S.W.3d __ (Tex. 2019), the Supreme Court held that, under the Administrative Procedures Act, a party seeking judicial review of an administrative order must first move for rehearing before the administrative law judge unless another governing statute provides otherwise. This appeal presented the issues decided in Mosley. The Supreme Court (1) agreed with the court of appeals that the trial court lacked jurisdiction because Wallace did not seek rehearing of the order she challenged before the administrative law judge, but (2) held that the agency misrepresented the proper procedure for judicial review in a letter to Wallace, thus denying Wallace due process. View "Wallace v. Texas Department of Family & Protective Services" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed in part the judgment of the court of appeals concluding that the trial court lacked jurisdiction over an administrative order because Roderic Horton did not move for rehearing before the administrative law judge and rejecting Horton's due process challenge based on the agency's misrepresentation of the proper procedure for judicial review, holding that Horton was denied due process. In Mosley v. Texas Health & Human Services Commission, __ S.W.3d __ (Tex. 2019), the Supreme Court held that, under the Administrative Procedures Act, a party seeking judicial review of an administrative order must first move for rehearing before the administrative law judge unless another governing statute provides otherwise. This appeal presented the issues decided in Mosley. The Supreme Court (1) agreed with the court of appeals that the trial court lacked jurisdiction because Horton did not seek rehearing of the order she challenged before the administrative law judge, but (2) held that the agency misrepresented the proper procedure for judicial review in a letter to Horton, thus denying Horton due process. View "Horton v. Texas Department of Family & Protective Services" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed in part the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the district court affirming the conclusions of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) that CPS Energy violated both Tex. Util. Code 54.204(c)'s uniform-charge requirement and section 54.204(b)'s prohibition of discrimination, holding that the PUC could reasonably have concluded, as it did, that CPS Energy violated the plain terms of section 54.204(b). The PUC concluded that a utility that invoices different telecommunications providers a uniform rate nevertheless violates section 54.204(b) if it fails to take timely action to ensure that all pole attachers actually pay the uniform rate it invoices. The court of appeals reversed, holding that if a telecommunications provider does not pay the rate the utility uniformly charges, any discriminatory effect is the telecommunication provider's fault, not the utility's. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the PUC's finding that CPS Energy failed to make any serious or meaningful effort to collect from AT&T Texas was supported by substantial evidence, and the effect on Time Warner Cable was clearly discriminatory. View "Time Warner Cable Texas LLC v. CPS Energy" on Justia Law

by
In this interlocutory appeal, the Supreme Court reversed in part the judgment of the court of appeals allowing the State's money-damages claims and its ultra vires claims to proceed against the Chambers-Liberty Counties Navigation District (District) and Sustainable Texas Oyster Resource Management, LLC (STORM), holding that governmental immunity barred the State's claim for monetary relief against the District but did not bar its ultra vires claim. The District leased submerged land to STORM for oyster production. The State sued the District and STORM seeking to invalidate the lease on the grounds that Texas law affords the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department the sole power to decide who may cultivate oysters in the area. The State also sought monetary relief. The District filed a plea to the jurisdiction, asserting that the District's immunity from suit barred the State's claims. The trial court denied the plea. The court of appeals reversed the portion of the trial court's order that permitted the State to pursue an ultra vires claim against the District itself and otherwise affirmed the denial of the plea to the jurisdiction. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that governmental immunity barred the State's claim for monetary relief against the District but did not bar its ultra vires claim. View "Chambers-Liberty Counties Navigation District v. State" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the district court's judgment affirming the negative use determinations issued by the Commission on Environmental Quality as to Respondents' applications for tax exemptions for heat recovery steam generators (HRSGs), holding that Texas Tax Code 11.31 does not give the Commission and its Executive Director discretion to deny an ad valorem tax exemption for HRSGs. In Brazos Electric Power Cooperative v. Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, __ S.W.3d __ (Tex. 2019), also issued today, the Supreme Court held that the Legislature has deemed HRSGs to qualify at least in part as "pollution control property" entitled to an exemption. The Court further held in Brazos Electric that the Commission abused its discretion by issuing negative use determinations for two exemption applications involving HRSGs when the applications complied with relevant statutory requirements. In the instant case, the Commission issued negative use determinations for Petitioners' applications for tax exemptions for HRSGs. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the court of appeals correctly held that the Commission may not issue negative use determinations for HRSGs. View "Texas Commission on Environmental Quality v. Brazos Valley Energy, LLC" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed part and reversed in part the judgment of the court of appeals holding that the trial court lacked jurisdiction over Petitioner's appeal because she did not seek rehearing of an ALJ's ruling and that the agency in this case did not deprive Petitioner of due process, holding that the trial court lacked jurisdiction but that the agency violated Petitioner's right to due process. An ALJ sustained the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services' determination that Petitioner's name be submitted to the Employee Misconduct Registry unless she timely petitioned for judicial review. In its letter, the Health and Human Services Commission failed to explain that filing a motion for rehearing was a prerequisite for judicial review. The trial court overruled the agencies' plea to the jurisdiction but ruled for them on the merits of Petitioner's appeal. The court of appeals reversed the trial court's judgment on the jurisdictional plea and rendered judgment that Petitioner's failure to seek rehearing deprived the trial court of subject matter jurisdiction. The Supreme Court held (1) the trial court lacked jurisdiction to consider Petitioner's case; but (2) the agencies deprived Petitioner of her right to judicial review by misrepresenting the proper procedures to seek judicial review of the adverse order. View "Mosley v. Texas Health & Human Services Commission" on Justia Law

by
In this removal proceeding brought under chapter 87 of the Texas Local Government Code (the removal statute), the Texas Local Government Code (TCPA) applied, and the state failed to establish a prima facie case for the removal of a county official. George Best sought to remove Paul Harper from the Somervell County Hospital District Board by filing this suit under the removal statute. The county attorney appeared in this case as plaintiff on the state’s behalf, and the state adopted Best’s allegations. Harper filed a motion to dismiss under the TCPA, arguing that Best filed, and the state joined, the removal petition based in response to Harper’s exercise of the right to petition and right of free speech and that the state could not establish a prima facie case for removal. The trial court denied the motion. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) this case was a legal action under the TCPA, but the TCPA does not apply when a government attorney brings an enforcement action in the state’s name; and (2) only one of the allegations against Harper constituted an enforcement action, and as to the allegations that were not enforcement actions, the state’s sovereign immunity did not protect it from Harper’s claim for appellate costs. View "State ex rel. Best v. Harper" on Justia Law

by
The Parker County Appraisal District did not employ a facially unlawful means of appraising Taxpayers’ property, which appeared to derive much of its market value from saltwater disposal wells in which wastewater from oil and gas operations could be injected and permanently stored underground. When valuing for tax purposes Taxpayers’ tracts of land in Parker County, the Parker County Appraisal District assigned one appraised value to the wells and another appraised value to the land itself. Taxpayers argued before the trial court that the Tax Code did not permit the County to appraise the wells separately from the land itself where both interests are owned by the same person and have not been severed into discrete estates. The trial court granted summary judgment for Taxpayers. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) there was nothing improper in the District’s decision to separately assigned and appraise the surface and the disposal wells, which were part of Taxpayers’ real property and contributed to its value; and (2) the Tax Code does not prohibit the use of different appraisal methods for different components of a property. View "Bosque Disposal Systems, LLC v. Parker County Appraisal District" on Justia Law

by
An individual qualifies as “unemployed” for purposes of the Texas Unemployment Compensation Act while taking unpaid leave from her job under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), but eligibility for unemployment benefits requires more than “unemployed” status. Julia White went on FMLA leave for severe anxiety and depression. Before White returned to work for Wichita County, she filed a claim for unemployment benefits. The County contested the claim on the ground that White remained a County employee and thus did not qualify for benefits. The Texas Workforce Commission determined that White was “unemployed” while on her unpaid leave of absence and that it could pay her benefits if she met all other requirements. The trial court reversed. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that it would be “absurd” for an individual to be entitled to unemployment benefits during FMLA leave. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) an individual on unpaid medical leave, even if protected under the FMLA, satisfies the Act’s definition of unemployed and may qualify for unemployment benefits if she meets the Act’s eligibility requirements; and (2) substantial evidence supported the Commission’s decision in this case. View "Texas Workforce Commission v. Wichita County" on Justia Law