Miles v. Texas Central Railroad & Infrastructure, Inc., 20-0393

CourtSupreme Court of Texas
Citation647 S.W.3d 613
Docket Number20-0393
Parties James Fredrick MILES, Petitioner, v. TEXAS CENTRAL RAILROAD & INFRASTRUCTURE, INC. and Integrated Texas Logistics, Inc., Respondents
Decision Date24 June 2022

647 S.W.3d 613

James Fredrick MILES, Petitioner,
TEXAS CENTRAL RAILROAD & INFRASTRUCTURE, INC. and Integrated Texas Logistics, Inc., Respondents

No. 20-0393

Supreme Court of Texas.

Argued January 11, 2022

David B. Hurst, for Amicus Curiae KSA Industries, Inc.

Royce B. West, Dallas, for Amicus Curiae West, Royce B.

Robert H. Leilich, Pro Se.

Christopher Pepper, for Amicus Curiae Texas Aggregates and Concrete Association.

Collyn A. Peddie, Sylvester Turner, Houston, for Amicus Curiae City of Houston.

Dylan O. Drummond, Dallas, Michael Patrick McShan, Blake L. Beckham, Dallas, Joseph Cecere, Jeffrey S. Levinger, for Petitioner.

Lauren Jaynes Olivarez, Angus Earl McSwain, Waco, for Amicus Curiae Texas Farm Bureau.

Scott Keller, Matthew H. Frederick, Austin, for Amici Curiae Texas Rail Advocates, Dallas Regional Chamber, Dallas Citizens Council.

Sarah Lacy, Austin, for Amicus Curiae Greater Houston Partnership.

Robert B. Neblett III, Danica Lynn Milios, Michael Heidler, Austin, Christopher C. Franz, Adam W. Aston, Austin, Marie R. Yeates, Houston, Gil P. Peralez, McAllen, Monte F. James, Austin, Catherine ‘Cathy’ B. Smith, Jennifer Caughey, Benjamin Moss, Houston, for Respondents.

Jon Christopher Fultz, Navasota, for Amicus Curiae Grimes County.

Courtney Cox Smith, James D. Bradbury, for Amicus Curiae Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA).

Rodney Ellis, Houston, Pro Se.

W. Roy Defriend, for Amicus Curiae Limestone County.

Cydonii Fairfax, for Amicus Curiae Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, Texas.

Keith Cook, for Amicus Curiae Leon County.

Derek Dryden Rollins, Dallas, for Amicus Curiae James Darren Eagle.

Christopher Mohr Odell, Houston, for Amicus Curiae SNCF America, Inc.

Martha Montgomery, for Amicus Curiae Ellis County.

Wallace B. Jefferson, Austin, William J. Boyce, for Amici Curiae North Texas Commission, Greater Houston Partnership.

Lance Thomas, for Amicus Curiae The Thomas Family.

Judd E. Stone II, Evan S. Greene, Austin, Kyle Hawkins, Houston, Bill Davis, Austin, for Amicus Curiae Soilcitor General.

Christian Menefee, Pro Se.

Michael Evans, Houston, for Amicus Curiae Freestone County.

Brian Lee Risinger, for Amicus Curiae Madison County.

Daniel J. Sheehan Jr., Dallas, for Amici Curiae The House Family, House, Calvin.

Clay Jenkins, for Amicus Curiae Dallas County.

Mattie Parker, for Amicus Curiae City of Fort Worth.

Scott A. Brister, Austin, Kathryn E. Boatman, J. Mark Breeding, Houston, for Amicus Curiae Delta Troy Interests, Ltd.

Ronald E. Bunch, Waxahachie, for Amicus Curiae Getzendaner, Junior, William H.

Eric Johnson, for Amicus Curiae City of Dallas.

Terry L. Jacobson, William Thompson, for Amicus Curiae Navarro County.

Thomas A. Zabel, Houston, for Amicus Curiae Texas Pipeline Association.

Elton Raymond Mathis Jr., for Amicus Curiae Waller County.

David G. Cabrales, Dallas, for Amicus Curiae Texas Association of Business.

Laura A.W. Pratt, Zachary S. Brady, Lubbock, for Amicus Curiae South Texans’ Property Rights Association (STPRA).

Charles Adren Caldwell II, Dallas, for Amicus Curiae Regional Black Contractors Association.

Simrita Chamdal, Courtney Carlson, Jonathan G.C. Fombonne, Christian Menefee, Tiffany Sue Bingham, for Amicus Curiae Harris County Commissioners Rodney Ellis and Adrian Garcia.

Peyton McKnight, for Amicus Curiae American Council of Engineering Companies of Texas (ACEC Texas).

Jennifer Oshea Rodriguez, Irving, for Amicus Curiae North Texas Commission.

Christian Menefee, Rodney Ellis, Houston, for Amicus Curiae Garcia, Adrian.

Angus Earl McSwain, Waco, for Amicus Curiae Texas Farm Bureau.

Justice Lehrmann delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Chief Justice Hecht, Justice Boyd, Justice Busby, and Justice Young joined.

647 S.W.3d 616

At the outset, it is important to recognize what this case is about and what it is not about. The case involves the interpretation of statutes relating to eminent domain; it does not ask us to opine about whether high-speed rail between Houston and Dallas is a good idea or whether the benefits of the proposed rail service outweigh its detriments. The narrow issue presented is whether the two private entities behind the project have been statutorily granted the power of eminent domain, a power otherwise reserved to the State and its political subdivisions because of the extraordinary intrusion on private-property rights that the exercise of such authority entails.

The owner of real property located along the proposed railway route sued both entities, seeking a declaratory judgment that they lack eminent-domain authority. The entities rely on the Texas Transportation Code's grant of eminent-domain authority to "legal entit[ies] operating a railroad" (railroad companies) and to "corporation[s] chartered under the laws of this state to conduct and operate an electric railway between two municipalities in this state" (interurban electric railway companies) for that authority. TEX. TRANSP. CODE §§ 81.002(2), 112.002(5),

647 S.W.3d 617

131.011 –.012. The trial court held that the entities do not qualify as either railroad companies or interurban electric railway companies and granted summary judgment to the landowner. The court of appeals reversed, holding that the entities qualify as both. We agree with the court of appeals that the entities have eminent-domain power as interurban electric railway companies and need not address whether they also qualify as railroad companies. We therefore affirm the court of appeals’ judgment.

I. Background

Texas Central Railroad & Infrastructure, Inc. (Texas Central Railroad) was formed in December 2012 as TXHS Railroad, Inc. In January 2015, Texas Central Railroad amended its articles of incorporation to change its name and to state that it was organized "to plan, build, maintain and operate an interurban electric railroad." In September 2017, Integrated Texas Logistics, Inc. (Texas Logistics) was formed "[t]o construct, acquire, maintain, or operate lines of electric railway between municipalities in this state for the transportation of freight, passengers, or both" and "[t]o operate and transact business as a railroad company." Texas Central Railroad and Texas Logistics (collectively, the Texas Central Entities) share office space, officers, employees, and contact information. As noted, the entities are jointly endeavoring to build a railway for a high-speed train between Houston and Dallas.

According to the Texas Central Entities’ summary-judgment evidence, Texas Central Railroad "is primarily responsible for pre-construction activities related to design and right-of-way acquisition," has "overall construction responsibility," and is "responsible for the construction activities related to the tracks, stations, platforms, power systems, communication systems, and other infrastructures along the route." Texas Logistics, in turn, "will support and assist [Texas Central Railroad] and contractors in the procurement, storage, and timely delivery of the rolling stock [trains] and [construction] component parts," "procure, own, and operate any [necessary] short line railroads," and ultimately "maintain the rail infrastructure and rolling stock."

In January 2016, Texas Central Railroad began conducting "on-the-ground surveys and examinations" of land in connection with evaluating proposed routes for the project. Two months earlier, in November 2015, Texas Central Railroad had contacted petitioner James Miles about surveying his property. Miles owns approximately 600 acres of property in Leon County along the project's "preferred" route, as determined by the Federal Railroad Administration, and the planned railway will essentially bisect Miles's property with a 100-foot right-of-way. Miles refused to consent to a survey of his property and sued Texas Central Railroad for a declaratory judgment that, among other things, Texas Central Railroad lacked eminent-domain authority. Texas Central Railroad counterclaimed for a declaratory judgment that it is a "railroad company" and an "electric railway" with eminent-domain power under Chapters 112 and 131 of the Transportation Code. Texas Central Railroad also sought to enjoin Miles from interfering with its access to the property for survey purposes. Texas Logistics intervened in the suit and sought similar relief.

The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment, taking diametrically opposing views on both the proper interpretation of the statutes at issue and the status and wisdom of the project. The Texas Central Entities focused on the following accomplishments as of the date of the

647 S.W.3d 618

summary-judgment hearing in August 2018:

• Texas Central Railroad had spent over $125 million on the project.

• Nearly 100 technical experts were engaged on the project, along with 200 employees and contractors.

• Over 2,000

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