Sunday, February 17, 2008

Plaintiff lacked standing to contest legality of BP lease, court of appeals says

Standing Doctrine Invoked to Nix Complaint

Being a member of the public not enough to give plaintiff a personal stake in the matter of BP's lease of City of Galveston property. Trial court thus not presented with a claim over which it can exercise jurisdiction, according to Justice Elsa Alcala, author of appellate panel's memo opinion:

In her second and third issues, Saint-Paul contends that the proposed lease to BP is illegal and cannot be enforced because it was not the result of the bidding requirement in Local Government Code section 272.001 that applies to the sale of public land, which she claims applies here for this “sale disguised as a lease.”

Saint-Paul presents one joint argument under these two issues relating to whether the lease was in fact a sale. We therefore treat these issues together.

The Board asserts that Saint-Paul does not have standing to contest the invalidity of the lease to BP. BP similarly asserts that Saint-Paul does not have standing to bring her suit because she cannot show a particularized injury, distinct from other members of the public.

Standing implicates a court’s subject matter jurisdiction. Patterson v. Planned Parenthood of Houston, 971 S.W.2d 439, 442–43 (Tex. 1998). Standing is a component of subject-matter jurisdiction, cannot be waived, and is essential to a court’s power to decide a case. Williams v. Lara, 52 S.W.3d 171, 178 (Tex. 2000); Bland Indep. School Dist. v. Blue, 34 S.W.3d 547, 553–54 (Tex. 2000). Unless a particular statute conveys standing, a plaintiff who sues to challenge governmental decision-making must demonstrate that she has an interest in a conflict separate from that of the general public and that the defendant’s actions have caused the plaintiff some particular injury. Williams, 52 S.W.3d at 178–79; Bland Indep. School Dist, 34 S.W.3d at 555–56.

To show standing under section 272.001, a plaintiff must show “a particular personal interest that was harmed by the alleged defect” in a disposition of public property. Bell v. Katy Indep. Sch. Dist., 994 S.W.2d 862, 866 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 1999, no pet.). Saint-Paul offered no evidence, nor does she claim, that she would have submitted a bid to purchase the property had a competitive bid process existed.

She therefore lacks standing to assert a cause of action under section 272.001. See id. (holding that plaintiffs lacked standing where they did not contend that deficiency in notice under section 272.001 caused them to lose opportunity to bid on property or that they had interest in attempting to purchase property). Because we lack subject-matter jurisdiction, we dismiss Saint-Paul’s second and third issues.

City of Galveston, Texas, and BP v. Nancy Saint-Paul,
No. 01-06-00580-CV (Tex.App.- Houston [1st Dist.] Feb. 14, 2008)(Alcala) (standing, attorney's fees)
Panel members: Chief Justice Radack, Justices Jennings and Alcala
Full style of case: The City of Galveston, Texas; BP Energy Company, Intervenor; Board of Trustees of the Galveston Wharves v. Nancy Saint-Paul
Trial court: 122nd District Court of Galveston County (Judge Hon. John Ellisor)

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