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Anti-rail “lawsuit” hearing

Didn’t get to this yesterday, but the hearing for the anti-rail “lawsuit” took place on Wednesday.

A judge heard arguments Wednesday, but did not rule, on a Richmond Avenue resident’s request to order Metropolitan Transit Authority officials to testify about their transit plans.

Attorney Andy Taylor, representing Daphne Scarborough, had filed a motion in April to compel the testimony but did not formally sue the agency. Metro described the unusual tactic as a “fishing expedition.”

Neither side called witnesses in the two-hour hearing before state District Judge Levi Benton.

Seems almost anti-climactic, doesn’t it? I don’t know what I was expecting from a Section 202 petition hearing, but I suppose I thought there’d be a witness or two.

Taylor began by arguing that Metro has violated the 2003 referendum in which voters narrowly approved the transit plan. He cited changes in the specified routes, substitution of Bus Rapid Transit for light rail on four of the five routes, and a reduction in bus service. He also questioned Metro’s plans for funding the expansion.

Metro’s lawyers, Gene Locke and Andrew Edison, said the agency is complying with the referendum and argued that the hearing should focus on the narrow issue of whether its officials should have to testify in the absence of a lawsuit.

Locke argued that applying the legal provision to government bodies like Metro would allow any litigant with a grievance to hamstring an agency in the performance of its duties.

Taylor responded that the alternative would be a “full-blown nuclear war” in court, wasting time and money.

In other words, “Do exactly as we say, or we’ll sue”. Quite the choice, no? You know, since it’s Scarbrough and Taylor who’d be making the first strike in this hypothetical nuclear war, it’s also Scarbrough and Taylor who can avoid its resulting waste of time and money by choosing to avoid the confrontation instead. I’m just saying.

There’s also an implication in Taylor’s words that if only Metro would capitulate and agreed to being deposed, Taylor could heroically get to the truth of the matter. This, naturally, would avoid the need for all that costly and wasteful litigation, because Metro will come to see how wrong they’ve been all along. It’s almost like he’s expecting a Perry Mason-style confession to come out of this: “OK, OK, I did it, and I’m glad! We deliberately misled the public into voting for something we never intended to build. And we’d have gotten away with it, too, if it hadn’t been for you meddling kids!”

OK, maybe not. But what I’m getting at here is, under what circumstances will this not lead to a lawsuit? Suppose Judge Benton grants Taylor’s motion and lets him depose away. What are the odds that after all is said and done, Taylor will conclude that there isn’t enough evidence for him to have any kind of chance of winning in court? Remember, Taylor has a record of making grandiose claims that evaporate under scrutiny. Are there any circumstances under which he’ll walk away without firing a shot, after coming all this way? Especialy considering that, as RichmondRail.org notes, all the principals in this action have fought light rail from the beginning, and continue to do so in the other non-Universities corridors today? I don’t think so.

We’ll see what Judge Benton says. Meanwhile, RichmondRail.org has a timeline to ponder. Check it out.

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One Comment

  1. Kenneth Fair says:

    Technically, it’s not a “Section 202 motion” but a “Rule 202 motion,” given that it’s based on Rule 202 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, the rules that govern lawsuits in state trial courts.

    That said, you’re absolutely right. There’s no way this won’t lead to a lawsuit. My guess is that Taylor’s just trying to cover his rear end so he doesn’t get hit with sanctions when his histrionics fall apart again.