Texas Supreme Court Argument Preview (1/14/16)

Posted by Rich PhillipsOn Thursday, January 14, 2016, the Supreme Court of Texas will hear argument in three cases:No. 14-0645, Wasson Interests v. City of Jacksonville – This appeal presents two issues related to governmental immunity. The first issue is whether a municipality’s ability to invoke governmental immunity in response to a breach-of-contract suit is affected by the fact that the municipality was engaging in a proprietary function instead of a governmental function. If the distinction between proprietary and governmental functions applies to contract claims, the second issue is whether leasing lakefront property located outside the city limits to individuals for residential development is a proprietary function.No. 15-0029, Wheelabrator Air Pollution v. City of San Antonio – This appeal presents the same question as Wasson Interests about whether the distinction between proprietary and governmental functions applies to contract claims. The issue is in a slightly different context, in that the question is whether the municipality can be liable for attorneys’ fees in a breach of contract case related to a proprietary function. The issue is also somewhat complicated by the fact that the contract claims at issue fall within the immunity waiver in Government Code Chapter 271. A second issue is whether the right to attorneys’ fees should have been decided by a plea to the jurisdiction.No. 14-0669, Daniel Greer and Fix the Facts Foundation v. Salem Abraham, consolidated for argument with No. 14-0987, Michael Sullivan v. Salem Abraham – The main issue in No. 14-0669 relates to the “implied reference” standard for determining whether the subject of an allegedly libelous article is so-well known in his community that the actual-malice standard for public officials applies even without an express reference to his official capacity in the article. The issue is whether application of the implied-reference standard should be determined based on the official’s notoriety within the community where he lives or on his notoriety among all of the potential readers of the article, which was published on the Internet. The main issue in No. 14-0987 is whether the Texas Citizens’ Participation Act (the anti-SLAPP statute) allows “justice and equity” as a basis to reduce attorney fees, or only as a basis to reduce “other expenses” for a successful defendant. As always, you can watch oral argument live (or go back and watch the recording later) here.