May 19, 2020 - Jim Mathews, CEO - Rail Passengers Association -
An aggrieved Texas landowner at the center of opposition to the Texas Central high-speed rail project says he’s taking his claim that Texas Central doesn’t count as an actual railroad all the way to the Texas Supreme Court.
After four years – and doubtless many tens of thousands of dollars in lawyers’ fees – a Texas appeals court two weeks ago found that Texas Central Railway is legitimately both a railroad and an interurban electric railway, relying largely on the Texas Supreme Court’s previous rulings about how to read the text of the Texas legislature’s laws and what is and is not a “common carrier.”
Undeterred, landowner James Miles says he’s not finished. He has until July 22 to file his petition with the Texas Supreme Court asking them to agree to hear his case. That request is right now in the docket under Case Number 20-0393.
There’s no guarantee that the Texas Supreme Court will even take the case. That’s the first hurdle. Then, even if it does, Miles would have to get the Court to do two more things in order to win – ignore Texas’ Code Construction Act and repudiate a three-year old decision the Supreme Court already made about how to meet the test of being a common carrier. How would that work?
First, for the Code Construction Act, he’d have to persuade the state’s top court to ignore this law that guides jurists in how to interpret Texas statutes. That law declares that when reading Texas laws “words in the present tense include the future tense.” Miles argues that the word “operating” in this instance means Texas Central has to already have tracks and stations and other outward elements of a functioning railroad before it can do the things that railroads do – land surveys, for example, or claiming the potential to exercise eminent domain. In other words, he claims “operating” does not include the future tense, which would fly in the face of the Code Construction Act.
Appellate judge Nora Longoria of Texas’ Thirteenth District Court of Appeals flatly rejected the claim in her May 7 decision. “Miles’s interpretation would have this Court....