13th Court of Appeals holds determination of City boundaries is a political question that courts have no jurisdiction to hear

CITY OF CORPUS CHRISTI, TEXAS v. CITY OF INGLESIDE, 13-13-00088-CV (Tex. App. – Corpus Christi, May 29, 2014).

This is a dispute between two cities and their municipal boundaries where the definition of “shoreline” in their ordinances became critical. The trial court denied Corpus Christi’s plea to the jurisdiction in the declaratory judgment action for interpretation, but the 13th Court of Appeals reversed.

Ingleside filed a declaratory judgment suit against Corpus Christi to construe a boundary definition of “shoreline.”  Ingleside claimed the definition allowed for double taxation. Corpus Christi filed a plea to the jurisdiction on numerous grounds including that only the City can define its boundaries, sovereign immunity barred Ingleside’s claims and the subject matter was a political question within the sole purview of the legislative body. The trial court denied the plea and Corpus Christi appealed.

The Corpus Christi Court of Appeals started by addressing the political question argument. It quickly held that “If Ingleside is seeking the determination of a political subdivision’s boundary, its suit, whether for declaratory relief or not, is barred as a political question that the legislature must decide.” The dispute states the resolution will settle where geographic areas lie and in which city. Each city’s ordinance defined the boundary between the cities as the “shoreline” so there is no dispute that is the boundary.  Having the court redefine the term will result in an alteration of the boundary line and Ingleside presented no evidence the term “shoreline” was not understood by both cities.  As a result, the relief sought requests the court to venture into a political question over which it has no jurisdiction. The court reversed the denial of the plea and dismissed Ingleside’s claims.

If you would like to read this opinion click here. Panel: Chief Justice Valdez, Justice Rodriguez, and Justice Longoria.  Memorandum Opinion by Chief Justice Valdez. The attorneys listed for the City of Corpus Christi are Carlos Valdez and Jody D. Leake.  The attorneys listed for the City of Ingleside are John C. Holmgreen, Jr.,  Shirley Selz an d Michael Morris.

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