TCAA/TML Legal Defense Program: Amicus Briefs and Comments Filed

TCAA, in conjunction with the Texas Municipal League, files amicus briefs and comments in support of cities on many issues. To keep up to date on the status of these issues, go to http://www.tml.org/p/AmicusBriefUpdate_051116.pdf.

Contractual Immunity: Wasson Interests v. City of Jacksonville, No. 14-0645, in the Supreme Court of Texas. TML and TCAA filed an amicus brief in support of the City of Jacksonville’s Motion for Rehearing.  Wasson Interests (Wasson) filed suit against the City of Jacksonville asserting breach of contract related to a lease agreement the city entered into with Wasson.  The trial court granted the City of Jacksonville’s plea to the jurisdiction, and the appeals court affirmed that decision. Wasson filed a petition to the Supreme Court of Texas, which was granted. The Supreme Court issued its opinion on April 1, 2016, that the proprietary-governmental dichotomy found in the Texas Tort Claims Act applies to waiver of immunity claims in the contract setting. The City of Jacksonville filed a Motion for Rehearing on May 6, 2016. TML and TCAA’s letter brief in support was filed on the same day.

Tort Claims Act: Webb County v. Adriana Perez, No. 15-0666, in the Supreme Court of Texas. TML and TCAA joined the Texas Association of Counties and Texas Association of Counties Risk Management Pool in urging the Texas Supreme Court to grant review of whether a police officer who responds to a domestic violence call on his own initiative is engaging in an “emergency” response covered by the emergency exception of the Texas Tort Claims Act. The brief was filed on April 26, 2016.  

Water Rate Jurisdiction: Appeal of Water and Sewer Rates Charged by the Town of Woodloch, Nos. 12312 and 20141, PUC Docket No. 42862. The Public Utility Commission of Texas (Commission) has issued an Order Requesting Briefing on the following question:  “What is the Commission’s jurisdiction on an appeal of a municipality’s water and sewer rates over the rates of the in-town residents of the municipality?”  The Commission has jurisdiction over appeals from the water or sewer rates charged by a municipally owned utility (MOU) to customers outside the city’s limits.  That has been the case for decades.  But the Commission does not have jurisdiction over the in-city rates of a MOU.  What began as a typical appeal of rates by customers outside the city’s limits may turn into an attempt by the Commission to usurp authority over cities.  Section 13.042(f) of the Texas Water Code clearly provides that it “does not give the utility commission power or jurisdiction to regulate or supervise the rates or service of a utility owned and operated by a municipality, directly or through a municipally owned corporation, within its corporate limits.”  Nonetheless, the Commission is seeking comments on the question.  The present docket is not the first time the Commission has asked the question.  In 1981, the chair of the Commission requested an attorney general opinion on exactly the same question, and the attorney general concluded that “the Texas Public Utility Commission does not have authority to set rates for customers inside the city limits.”  The League filed comments in support of the City of Woodloch on April 25, 2016, and May 5, 2016.

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