City of Dallas v. Stewart, Heather (Tex. 2011)
No. 09-0257 (Tex. Jul. 1, 2011)(Opinion by Chief Wallace B. Jefferson)
(administrative resolution of nuisance abatement dispute not preclusive, judicial review
available, takings claim)
THE GIST: Urban blight threatens neighborhoods. Either as a risk to public health or
as a base for illicit activity, dilapidated structures harm property values far more than
their numbers suggest. Cities must be able to abate these nuisances to avoid disease
and deter crime. But when the government sets up a mechanism to deal with this very
real problem, it must nonetheless comply with constitutional mandates that protect a
citizen’s right to her property.
Today we hold that a system that permits constitutional issues of this importance to be
decided by an administrative board, whose decisions are essentially conclusive, does
not correctly balance the need to abate nuisances against the rights accorded to
property owners under our constitution. Independent court review is a constitutional
necessity. We affirm the court of appeals’ judgment, but on different grounds.
Conclusion. That the URSB’s nuisance determination cannot be accorded preclusive
effect in a takings suit is compelled by the constitution and Steele, by Lurie and its
antecedents, by the nature of the question and the nature of the right. The protection of
property rights, central to the functioning of our society,26 should not—indeed, cannot—
be charged to the same people who seek to take those rights away.
Because we believe that unelected municipal agencies cannot be effective bulwarks
against constitutional violations, we hold that the URSB’s nuisance determination, and
the trial court’s affirmance of that determination under a substantial evidence standard,
were not entitled to preclusive effect in Stewart’s takings case, and the trial court correctly
considered the issue de novo.
We affirm the court of appeals judgment. Tex. R. App. P. 60.2(a).
CASE DETAILS: CITY OF DALLAS v. HEATHER STEWART; from Dallas County;
5th district (05-07-01244-CV, ___ SW3d ___, 12-11-08)
The Court affirms the court of appeals' judgment.
Chief Justice Wallace B. Jefferson delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Justice Nathan
L. Hecht, Justice David Medina, Justice Don R. Willett, and Justice Debra Lehrmann joined.
Justice Phil Johnson delivered a dissenting opinion, in which Justice Dale Wainwright, Justice
Paul W. Green, and Justice Eva M. Guzman joined. [pdf]
Justice Eva M. Guzman delivered a dissenting opinion, in which Justice Dale Wainwright,
Justice Paul W. Green, and Justice Phil Johnson joined. [pdf]
Here is the link to e-briefs in case no. 09-0257 CITY OF DALLAS v. STEWART [including 3
CASE INFO AND HISTORY PER DOCKET DB: Case No. 09-0257
INTERNET POSTING REGARDING THIS CASE:
The Supreme Court of Texas Blog 2/15/2010
Takings claim for demolishing a house already determined to be a public nuisance
Here is the summary issued by the Court’s public-information officer:
The issue in this takings claim over a house the city demolished as a nuisance is whether res
judicata or collateral estoppel attaches to a final determination by a legislatively created, quasi-
judicial board. In this case the Urban Rehabilitation Standards Board declared Stewart’s house
a nuisance after years of standing vacant and in disrepair. As Stewart appealed the standards
board’s nuisance determination to the trial court, the city demolished the house under
authority granted by Local Government Code chapters 54 and 214. Stewart then pressed an
unconstitutional-takings claim, arguing the city took her property without fair compensation. In
response the city pleaded that the takings claim depended on relitigating the standards board’
s nuisance finding, but Stewart failed to appeal that specifically to the trial court. After a trial, a
jury found the city had unconstitutionally taken Stewart’s property and awarded damages. The
trial court rejected the city’s res judicata defense. The court of appeals affirmed.
City of Dallas v. Stewart (Tex. 2011)(Chief Justice Jefferson)
TEXT OF OPINION
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Also see: Texas Causes of Action | 2011 Texas Supreme Court Opinions |
2011 Tex Sup Ct Per Curiams
It probably wasn't that bad