The Texas Supreme Court will be hearing oral arguments this morning in three cases.

One of the cases is Severance v. Patterson, a certified question from a Fifth Circuit case attacking the constitutionality of the Texas Open Beaches Act. I blogged about the Fifth Circuit’s action (including its unusually scalding dissent from a certified question) here.

The controversy has generated press and blogging interest. The Statesman even gave a little “cursive language” of its own in favor of vetoing a related bill last session. The Governor signed it; and it was approved by the voters in November.

As with all Texas Supreme Court cases, I have been collecting newspaper articles, editorials, and blog posts about this Texas Supreme Court case on its DocketDB page.

Does alleging that an agency decision “takes” property overcome the State’s sovereign immunity?

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department v. The Sawyer Trust, No. 07-0945 (more info)

Here is the preview sent out by Osler McCarthy, the Court’s public information officer: (( As the Court makes clear in many contexts, Osler’s summaries are provided for public information “and reflect his judgment alone on facts and legal issues and in no way represent the Court’s opinion about case merits.” ))

This dispute over a mining permit to take sand and gravel from what the state contends is a navigational stream bed raises these principal issues: (1) whether the state’s jurisdictional immunity plea fails because the trust alleges the state is unconstitutionally “taking” its property and, if not, (2) whether state officials must be sued instead of the state itself. In this case the trust seeks to sell sand and gravel from the bed of the Salt Fork of the Red River traversing its property. By statute the state, through the parks department, owns sand and gravel in a navigable river streambed. The trust sued first to declare the Salt Fork at that point was not navigable, then added the takings claim. The trial court denied the state’s jurisdictional plea and the court of appeals affirmed.

When does the standard Texas homeowners insurance policy cover property damage caused by mold?

State Farm Lloyds and Erin Strachan v. Wanda M. Page, No. 08-0799 (more info)

Osler’s preview of the issues:

Principal issues in this mold-coverage case are (1) whether the standard Texas homeowners policy provides coverage for mold damage to a dwelling resulting from plumbing leaks; or (2) whether it provides mold-damage coverage for personal property in the dwelling; or (3) whether it provides coverage for both. Page sued State Farm for its refusal to replace her carpet after it repaired mold damage in her house and personal belongings. An underlying question is whether an exclusion-repeal provision in one policy part acts to override a mold exclusion in another part. The trial court granted summary judgment for State Farm, but the appeals court reversed.

Under Texas law, does the public easement created along the beachfront move inland if the shoreline does?

Carol Severance v. Jerry Patterson, et al., No. 09-0387 (more info)

This case was a certified question from the Fifth Circuit about questions of Texas state law, which the Texas Supreme Court agreed to answer. The case remains pending in the federal court, which will give its view of the federal constitutional question after hearing the Texas Supreme Court’s answers about Texas law.

Osler’s preview of the issues:

In this case involving Hurricane Rita’s beach destruction in Galveston, and consequent change in public access under the Texas Open Beaches Act, the circuit asks: (1) whether Texas recognizes a “rolling” public beachfront-access easement; if so, (2) whether the rolling easement derives from common law or the Open Beaches Act; and (3) what extent the landowner would be entitled to compensation for loss of property use apart from the state’s offer to remove houses on the easement.