HIGH SPEED RAIL VS. LANDOWNERS RIGHTS


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TEXAS CENTRAL SERVES INJUNCTION LAWSUIT IN KENDALL COUNTY, 250 MILES FROM HARRIS COUNTY WHERE THE PROPERTY IS LOCATED

Jewett, Texas – Following Judge Halbach’s denial of Texas Central’s motion for summary judgment “in its entirety” in the injunction lawsuit against landowner Calvin House, Texas Central attempted to spin the ruling and downplay its significance. In its December 20 press release, Texas Central said that it is looking forward to its day in court, where “we will show in a full trial that state law, established for more than a century, clearly gives railroad companies the right to conduct land surveys without interference.” Trial is scheduled for July 3, 2017.

What Texas Central didn’t say was that it already had its day in court at a hearing in September 2016, when it “passed” on its request for a temporary injunction after Judge Halbach made comments indicating that the request would be denied. Texas Central also left out the fact that Mr. House agreed to go to a “full trial” in November 2016, and that it declined his offer and filed its unsuccessful motion for summary judgment instead. Texas Central ended its statement with the following promise: “Meanwhile, we will continue to work with landowners in a direct and respectful manner as the project moves ahead as planned.”

Unfortunately for Texas Central, actions speak louder than words. Immediately following the release of its statement on December 20, Texas Central began attempts to serve yet another injunction lawsuit against a Harris County landowner. Texas Central filed the lawsuit back in June 2016 in Kendall County near San Antonio, where the landowner lives. In the suit, Texas Central claims harm is “imminent” and “immediate” and that “without examination and survey of the Property, the proposed high-speed rail line project will be indefinitely suspended….” Yet, Texas Central let the case sit idle for months, until October 21 when it requested the necessary papers from the court to serve the lawsuit. Coincidentally, this was just two days after Texas Central filed its motion for summary judgment against Mr. House in Harris County. Texas Central’s fallback plan was in place. If it lost on summary judgment in Harris County, it could move forward with service immediately in Kendall County, 250 miles from the court where it had just lost. Texas Central followed through with its plan and served its lawsuit on January 3.

Blake Beckham, special litigation counsel for Texans Against HSR, said, “After giving up at the temporary injunction hearing and then losing outright on summary judgment in Harris County, it appears that Texas Central now wants to go halfway across Texas to try its identical losing arguments out on a new judge. They’re desperately looking for an easy win against an unsuspecting landowner, hoping that some court, somewhere, will say that this under-funded startup is an actual railroad with eminent domain power in Texas. This is some of the most egregious forum shopping I have experienced in my 30 years of practice.”

Texans Against HSR President Kyle Workman said, “After Judge Halbach’s ruling, we asked Texas Central to stop its harassment of Texas landowners. And what did they do? They served another lawsuit 250 miles away, hoping nobody would find out about it. This is not what I would call working with landowners in a direct and respectful manner. It is deceitful and outright bullying, and it needs to stop.”

Texas Central has sued over 40 landowners in at least six counties to gain access to private property. In each and every lawsuit, Texas Central has claimed it is a railroad with eminent domain authority. Texas Central has also been repeating this claim to landowners for more than a year in an effort to obtain surveys and option contracts. However, no Texas court has ruled in Texas Central’s favor, nor has any court ordered an injunction against a landowner to allow Texas Central access to private property.

 


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