City of Rockwall v. Hughes, No. 05-0126.

CourtSupreme Court of Texas
Writing for the CourtJohnson
PartiesCITY OF ROCKWALL, Texas, Petitioner, v. Vester T. HUGHES, as Sole Independent Executor of the Estate of W.W. Caruth, Deceased, Respondent.
Docket NumberNo. 05-0126.
Decision Date25 January 2008
246 S.W.3d 621
CITY OF ROCKWALL, Texas, Petitioner,
v.
Vester T. HUGHES, as Sole Independent Executor of the Estate of W.W. Caruth, Deceased, Respondent.
No. 05-0126.
Supreme Court of Texas.
Argued January 25, 2006.
Decided January 25, 2008.
Rehearing Denied April 4, 2008.

[246 S.W.3d 622]

Terry D. Morgan, Terry Morgan & Associates, P.C., James W. Morris Jr., Goins

[246 S.W.3d 623]

Underkofler Crawford & Langdon, L.L.P., Dallas, F. Dayton Eckert Jr., Law Offices of F. Dayton Eckart Jr., Garland, Bob E. Shannon, Joseph R. Knight, Alice G. McAfee, Baker Botts LLP, Austin, TX, for Petitioner.

R. Matthew Molash, James A. Baker, Robert H. Mow Jr., Dwight A. Shupe, Matthew R. Miller, Garon R. Horton, Hughes & Luce, L.L.P., Dallas, TX, for Respondent.

Theodore Paul Gorski Jr., City of Fort Worth, Fort Worth, Edwin M. Snyder, City Attorney's Office, Denton, M. Scott Norman Jr., Texas Association of Builders, Scott Houston, Texas Municipal League, Austin, Darrin M. Coker, City Attorney for City of Pearland, Pearland, Brian D. Shannon, Texas Tech University School of Law, Lubbock, L. Stanton Lowry, Boyle & Lowry, LLP, Irving, TX, for Amicus Curiae.

Justice JOHNSON delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Chief Justice JEFFERSON, Justice WAINWRIGHT, Justice MEDINA, and Justice GREEN joined.


A municipality generally must annex land pursuant to a plan giving three years' notice of its intent to annex. If an area is exempt from the three-year notice requirement, then annexation can take place by use of abbreviated procedures with less notice of a city's intent to annex.

In this case, a landowner sought inclusion in the City of Rockwall's three-year annexation plan. The City denied the request, claimed the proposed annexation was statutorily exempt from the three-year requirement, and gave notice of intent to annex the landowner's territory under abbreviated procedures. The landowner requested that the City arbitrate the dispute. When the City refused, the landowner sought a court order compelling arbitration. The trial court refused to compel arbitration and dismissed the landowner's case for lack of jurisdiction. The court of appeals held that the City must arbitrate. We reverse the judgment of the court of appeals and affirm the trial court's judgment dismissing the suit.

I. Background
A. Annexation Law

The Texas Constitution confers on cities the power to annex land. TEX. CONST. art. XI, § 5. The Legislature prescribes procedures to be used by cities in conducting annexations. See TEX. LOC. GOV'T CODE ch. 43;1 Alexander Oil Co. v. City of Seguin, 825 S.W.2d 434, 439 (Tex.1991). Statutory annexation procedures require municipalities to prepare annexation plans specifically identifying areas which may be annexed beginning on the third anniversary of the date the plan is adopted or amended (a "three-year plan"). See TEX. LOC. GOV'T CODE § 43.052(c). Subchapter 43C sets out annexation procedures for areas included in such three-year plans. See id. §§ 43.051-.057.

Section 43.052(h) lists several types of exemptions from three-year plans. One type of area exempted is a "sparsely-populated" area. Id. § 43.052(h)(l). If an area is exempt from inclusion in a three-year plan, annexation occurs according to procedures set out in subchapter 43C-1. See id. § 43.061 ("This subchapter applies to an area proposed for annexation that is not required to be included in a municipal annexation plan under Section 43.052.").

246 S.W.3d 624

Annexations of section 43.052(h)(l) sparsely-populated areas may be initiated subject to 30 days' notice of the first hearing on the proposed annexation. Id. § 43.062(b). Annexations under subchapter 43C-1 procedures generally must be completed within ninety days of the time proceedings are begun. Id. § 43.064. Cities are prohibited from using the section 43.052(h)(1) "sparsely populated" exemption to circumvent requirements that annexations be pursuant to a three-year plan. Id. § 43.052(i).

The controversy before us primarily involves subsections 43.052(c), (h), and (i) which in pertinent part provide as follows:

(c) A municipality shall prepare an annexation plan that specifically identifies annexations that may occur beginning on the third anniversary of the date the annexation plan is adopted. The municipality may amend the plan to specifically identify annexations that may occur beginning on the third anniversary of the date the plan is amended.

. . . .

(h) This section [43.052] does not apply to an area proposed for annexation if: (1) the area contains fewer than 100 separate tracts of land on which one or more residential dwellings are located on each tract. . . .

(i) A municipality may not circumvent the requirements of this section by proposing to separately annex two or more areas described by Subsection (h)(1) if no reason exists under generally accepted municipal planning principles and practices for separately annexing the areas. If a municipality proposes to separately annex areas in violation of this section, a person residing or owning land in the area may petition the municipality to include the area in the municipality's annexation plan. If the municipality fails to take action on the petition, the petitioner may request arbitration of the dispute. The petitioner must request the appointment of an arbitrator in writing to the municipality. Sections 43.0564(b), (c), and (e) apply to the appointment of an arbitrator and the conduct of an arbitration proceeding under this subsection.

B. The Controversy

The estate of W.W. Caruth (the Estate) owns 405 acres of land (the Caruth property) within a part of the extraterritorial jurisdiction of the City, a home-rule city. In August 2004, the Estate applied to the City for initial approval of a residential development plan for the Caruth property. After the Estate filed its application, the City initiated annexation procedures pursuant to section 43.052(h)(l) in regard to two areas: one included the Caruth property and another included land not contiguous to the Caruth property. The City sent notices of annexation to affected persons2 pursuant to subchapter 43C-1 procedures for areas exempted from three-year annexation plans. The Estate objected to the City's attempt to annex using subchapter 43C-1 procedures and petitioned the City to include the Caruth property in the City's three-year annexation plan. The Rockwall City Council adopted a resolution rejecting the Estate's request. The Estate then asserted that the City was circumventing section 43.052(c)'s requirement that annexations be carried out pursuant to a three-year plan and requested arbitration pursuant to section 43.052(i). The City responded by advising the Estate that the proposed annexations were exempt from inclusion in a three-year plan

246 S.W.3d 625

and the Estate's "request for arbitration [was] not appropriate."

The Estate filed suit in district court seeking an order compelling arbitration pursuant to section 43.052(i) and a temporary restraining order and temporary injunction preventing the City from proceeding with annexation pending completion of arbitration, including related appeals, if any. The City responded, in part, by filing a plea to the jurisdiction asserting that the Estate did not have standing because the dispute concerned annexation procedures, the suit was a collateral attack on the annexation ordinances and proceedings and the only way to challenge alleged annexation procedural irregularities was through quo warranto proceedings. In support of its plea to the jurisdiction, the City argued, in part, that section 43.052(i) authorized the Estate to request arbitration if the City did not take action on the Estate's petition to be included in a three-year plan but that the City took action on the petition by denying it. The trial court denied the Estate's applications, granted the City's plea to the jurisdiction and dismissed the action.

The Estate appealed. The court of appeals agreed with the Estate's interpretation of section 43.052(i):

[W]e read the plain language of the statute to provide that, if the City fails to take action on the petition to include the area in the [three-year] annexation plan, the landowner may request arbitration of the dispute.

153 S.W.3d 709, 713-14 (emphasis added). The court of appeals reversed and remanded with instructions that the trial court compel arbitration and enjoin the City from proceeding with annexation pending the outcome of arbitration. Id. at 714.

In this Court, the City, supported by amicus curiae,3 maintains that the court of appeals erred in concluding that section 43.052(i) grants a private right to the Estate to elect, and thereby require, arbitration of the Estate's claim even though the City took action on the Estate's petition by denying it.4 The Estate, also supported by amicus curiae,5 claims it has standing because section 43.052(i) grants it a substantive, private right to require the City to arbitrate the Estate's claim.

II. Standard of Review

Statutory construction is a legal question we review de novo. In construing statutes, we ascertain and give effect to the Legislature's intent as expressed by the language of the statute. See State, Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept. v. Shumake, 199 S.W.3d 279, 284 (Tex.2006). We use definitions prescribed by the Legislature and any technical or particular meaning the words have acquired. TEX. GOV'T CODE § 311.011(b). Otherwise, we construe the statute's words according to their plain and common meaning, Texas Department of Transportation v. City of Sunset Valley, 146 S.W.3d 637, 642 (Tex.2004), unless a contrary intention is apparent

246 S.W.3d 626

from the context, Taylor v. Firemen's and Policemen's Civil Service Commission of City of Lubbock, 616 S.W.2d 187, 189 (Tex. 1981), or unless such a construction leads to absurd results. Univ. of Tex. S.W. Med. Ctr. v. Loutzenhiser, 140 S.W.3d 351, 356 (Tex.2004); see also Tex. Dep't...

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    ...P.A. v. Marroquin, 339 S.W.3d 68, 73 (Tex.2011) ( “We ... interpret statutes to avoid an absurd result.”); City of Rockwall v. Hughes, 246 S.W.3d 621, 625–26 (Tex.2008) (“[W]e construe the statute's words according to their plain and common meaning ... unless such a construction leads to ab......
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    • United States
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    ...Citizens Participation Act, 2011 Tex. Gen. Laws at 961.92 Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem.Code § 27.002.93 See, e.g., City of Rockwall v. Hughes, 246 S.W.3d 621, 625–26 (Tex.2008) (“[W]e construe the statute's words according to their plain and common meaning ... unless such a construction leads to a......
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787 cases
  • Nat'l Solid Wastes Mgmt. Ass'n v. City of Dall., Civil Action No. 3:11–cv–3200–O.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Northern District of Texas
    • October 16, 2012
    ...meaning of the text unless a different meaning is provided, or the plain meaning leads to absurd results. See City of Rockwall v. Hughes, 246 S.W.3d 621, 625–26 (Tex.2008). The Court presumes all of the words in a statute were included with a purpose in mind. See In re Caballero, 272 S.W.3d......
  • Entergy Gulf States, Inc. v. Summers, No. 05-0272.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Texas
    • April 3, 2009
    ...a presumption that components not expressed are excluded."). 93. 282 S.W.3d 433 (Hecht, J., concurring). 94. City of Rockwall v. Hughes, 246 S.W.3d 621, 632 (Tex.2008) (Willett, J., dissenting) ("The import of language, plain or not, must be drawn from the surrounding context, particularly ......
  • In re Lee, No. 11–0732.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Texas
    • September 27, 2013
    ...P.A. v. Marroquin, 339 S.W.3d 68, 73 (Tex.2011) ( “We ... interpret statutes to avoid an absurd result.”); City of Rockwall v. Hughes, 246 S.W.3d 621, 625–26 (Tex.2008) (“[W]e construe the statute's words according to their plain and common meaning ... unless such a construction leads to ab......
  • Serafine v. Blunt, NO. 03–12–00726–CV
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas
    • June 26, 2015
    ...Citizens Participation Act, 2011 Tex. Gen. Laws at 961.92 Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem.Code § 27.002.93 See, e.g., City of Rockwall v. Hughes, 246 S.W.3d 621, 625–26 (Tex.2008) (“[W]e construe the statute's words according to their plain and common meaning ... unless such a construction leads to a......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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