I am writing to you to in order to clear up misconceptions about today’s hearing in the 201 Civil District Court in Austin, presided over by Judge Amy Clark Meachum. The El Paso Times botched this story so badly with its omissions and misstatements that I feel compelled to clarify the facts. First, let’s name the five groups of litigants:
I am a plaintiff and my attorney Frank Ainsa filed my reply to the City’s expedited declaratory judgment action early last week. My reply indicated that I would appear today pro se–that is, without legal counsel. Then, this past Friday, just before Memorial Day weekend, Mr. Ainsa filed an amended reply on my behalf that is twelve pages long. My new reply revealed that I would be represented today by Harriet O’Neill, former Texas Supreme Court Justice, and Lisa Bowlin Hobbs, former General Counsel to the Texas Supreme Court. Mr. Ainsa could not join us today.
The City’s original petition for declaratory judgment makes it clear that they were expecting a challenge to the arena location. Actually, my team is arguing, contrary to what is stated in the first sentence of the El Paso Times report, that the City’s expenditure of bond money for the “arena” is illegal because El Pasoans never voted for a basketball “arena” in November 2012 but rather a “multi-purpose performing arts and entertainment facility.” The conclusion of our case brief is as follows: “A basketball arena is not a performing arts center as a matter of law. The City has misused the funds approved in the 2012 Quality of Life bond election. Its actions are illegal, invalid, and a breach of its contractual obligations to the taxpayers of El Paso. The Court should reject the City’s request to validate its actions, issue a declaratory judgment that the Project described in them RFQ is not a project the voters approved, and enjoin the the City from expending any funds from the Quality of Life bond on the Project described in the RFQ.”
2. ANTONIA FLORES MORALES, CANDELARIA GARCIA, AMILY SAENZ GARDEA AND OLGA LOPEZ
These four residents of Duranguito are represented by attorneys from Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid, Robert Doggett (based in Austin) and Cassandra McCrae (based in El Paso), and Carmen Rodriguez. The case brief of this team includes our main point, but also several additional points. Today thet moved for an injunction to prevent the City from spending bond money on property acquisitions until the trial is concluded but the Judge did not feel ready to make that ruling.
3. DR. YOLANDA LEYVA
Dr. Leyva responded to the City’s petition pro se and submitted a six-page reply focusing, above all, on the civil rights of the barrio residents.
4. LEONARD “TRIPPER” GOODMAN
My attorneys and I do not know why Mr. Goodman responded to the petition and showed up in Austin to defend the City. Does the City not have enough attorneys to make its case? People in El Paso may recognize him as the guy who launched a PAC to promote the Quality of Life Bond back in 2012 but in Austin no one has any idea who he is or why he matters in these proceedings. His attorney tried to prevent KVIA from televising today’s hearing and was promptly (and embarrassingly) overruled by Judge Meachum. Afterwards, Mr. Goodman stated to KVIA that El Pasoans overwhelmingly voted to site the “arena” in downtown, which is absolutely false since the word “downtown” did not appear on the ballot that was presented to the voters. Maybe he showed up in order to bloviate to the media. We don’t really care.
5. THE CITY OF EL PASO
Our opponents showed up with three attorneys from Norton Rose Fulbright, led by Scott Incerto. Also present were City bond attorney Paul Braden, and City Attorney Sylvia Firth and others from her department. They all looked pretty unhappy.
In addition, there was Kyle Wolfe, the Assistant Attorney General of the State of Texas, and his staff. Mr. Kyle was representing the interests of Ken Paxton, Attorney General of Texas. The State has so far refused to take the City’s side in this case and has opted to remain neutral. State Senator Jose Rodriguez was also in attendance and so was Elida Perez of the El Paso Times (whose report is both misleading and uninformative) and Jerry Najera of KVIA, who had a television exclusive and authored a fine report.
WHAT HAPPENED TODAY:
The City was caught off guard by our replies to their petition and requested more time to file its case brief, and the Judge also wanted additional time to review all the materials. Even though my team was prepared to litigate and wanted to present initial arguments today, the trial was postponed until July 17, with two days set aside for litigation. The City must submit its brief by June 21, and our teams will submit their final replies to the City’s brief by June 28. At the July 17-18 hearing, Frank Ainsa will appear in person this time, along with Harriet O’Neill and Lisa Bowlin Hobbs. We look forward to the trial and to witnessing how the City will argue that the sky is purple and the grass is blue–that is, that a “multipurpose performing arts and entertainment facility” may be construed as a basketball arena. Can you say “Hindenburg”? This should be fascinating…
Have a good night,