September 2019: 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 https://www.tml.org/DocumentCenter/View/1328/AmicusBriefUpdate_091219.

Ultra Vires Immunity Waiver:Kaufman County Commissioners Court v. Lassiter, No. 19-0686 in the Texas Supreme Court.  In this case, the Lassiters sought an order to force county commissioners to maintain a section of a county road. The Lassiters alleged that the road leading to their property is a public road and claimed that: (1) Kaufman County is responsible for the maintenance of the road; and (2) the commissioners court may not discontinue maintenance of the road before a new road is ready to replace it. They sought an injunction pursuant to Section 251.058(a)(2) of the Transportation Code, which entitles a person to relief if “the portion of the road being closed, abandoned, and vacated provides the only ingress to or egress from the person’s property.” The county claimed governmental immunity, but the trial and appellate courts disagreed. The appellate court stated that suits to require public officials to comply with statutory provisions are not prohibited because of the “ultra vires” exception to immunity. To fall within the ultra vires exception, a suit must not complain of a government officer’s exercise of discretion, but rather must allege and ultimately prove that the officer acted without legal authority or failed to perform a purely ministerial act. TML, as amici curiae, joined the Texas Association of Counties and the TML Intergovernmental Risk Pool to argue that the ultra vires exception to governmental immunity was improperly applied because the appellate court failed to analyze the statutes allegedly violated and did not explain why the individual commissioners’ failure to discontinue a non-public road was not discretionary. The brief was filed on September 6, 2019.

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