Trial Court could not properly issue TRO to enjoin city from considering annexation ordinance

In Re City of Pearland, 14-17-00921-CV (Tex. App. – Houston [14th Dist.], January 9, 2018)

The 14th Court of Appeals in Houston granted the City’s petition for mandamus compelling a trial court to lift its temporary restraining order issued in an annexation lawsuit.

Senate Bill 6, which requires a city to obtain consent by a majority of the property owners in an area before it can annex, went into effect December 1, 2017.  The City of Pearland attempted to annex an area prior to the effective date. On November 20, Plaintiffs filed their First Amended Petition, which alleged that the City, in the annexation process, had failed to comply with certain provisions of the Texas Open Meetings Act, amongst other things. Plaintiffs requested a temporary restraining order restraining the City from considering the annexation ordinance, which the trial court granted and set an injunction hearing for December 4, 2017. Pressed for time, the City filed a mandamus and request for emergency relief in the court of appeals.  The court issued an order for the trial court to remove the restraining order on November 27th , but filed this supplemental brief explaining its legal reasons.

Under section 551.142(a), a property owner, whose property has been annexed, has standing to challenge the validity of and enjoin an annexation ordinance based on violations of the Open Meetings Act.  Therefore, if the City did violate the Texas Open Meetings Act, the property owners have a legal remedy to challenge the annexation (after it occurs) for violations of the Act. The purpose of a TRO is to preserve the status quo. By restraining the City’s actions and setting a hearing after the deadline, the district court essentially had made a final, non-appealable adjudication affecting the City. That is not maintaining the status quo but issuing a ruling on the merits.

If you would like to read the opinion click here. Panel consists of Chief Justice Frost, Justice Busby and Justice Wise.  Memorandum Opinion Per Curiam. The attorneys listed for the City are John J. Hightower, Scott Bounds and Allison Poole. The attorneys listed for the property owners are Sayyed Omar Izfar, Scot Clinton and H. Fred Cook.

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