Fourth Court of Appeals holds no jurisdiction exists for ex-councilmember to sue after office was declared forfeit for charter violations – quo warranto is exclusive remedy

City of Leon Valley v Martinez, 04-19-00879-CV (Tex. App. — San Antonio, August 19, 2020)

This is a suit by an ousted city council member to recover his position. The San Antonino Court of Appeals held the exclusive remedy in this situation was a quo warranto lawsuit brought by the State.

After the City received complaints from several City employees about then councilmember Martinez’s conduct, the City Council investigated the complaints pursuant to the city charter. The City Council held several hearings, received testimony from several witnesses, and ultimately determined that Martinez had violated the city charter. The City Council removed Martinez, appointed a replacement, and the replacement was sworn in and began functioning.  Martinez sued asserting he was denied his due process rights and sought a determination of his right to be reinstated.  The City filed a plea to the jurisdiction, which was denied. The City appealed.

The purpose of a quo warranto action involving officeholders is to determine disputed questions concerning the proper person entitled to hold a public office and exercise its functions. The plain and unambiguous language of the quo warranto statute confers standing to lodge such a challenge on the State, not a private litigant. A quo warranto proceeding is the exclusive remedy to test the right of an officer to hold office. Martinez’s attacks on the type of notice he should have been provided and the number of votes required to remove him must be brought by the State.  As a result, the plea should have been granted.

If you would like to read this opinion click here. The panel consists of Justices Alvarez, Martinez and Rios. Opinion by Justice Alvarez.