Save Austin Now takes case to Texas Supreme Court

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Members of the Texas Supreme Court

This story was updated at 11:40am February 25, 2021, to add the City Council’s action this morning.

This story was updated again at noon February 27, 2021 to add links to the: (1) National Homelessness Law Center amicus brief in response to Relators’ Emergency Petition for Writ of Mandamus, and (2) Response to the amicus brief from Bill Aleshire, attorney for the Relators.

Third Court of Appeals denied petition for writ of mandamus to force Austin City Council to revised ballot language for Proposition B

In a terse one-line decision the Third Court of Appeals denied Save Austin Now’s Emergency Petition for a Writ of Mandamus.

The petition sought the Appeals Court support to force the Austin City Council to reword the ballot language previously adopted to describe Save Austin Now’s Proposition B on the May 1 ballot.

If enacted the petition ordinance would ban these activities:

Camping in a public area not designated as a camping areas by the City’s Parks and Recreation Department;

Soliciting in designated areas including ATMs, banks, check cashing businesses; and

Sitting or lying down on public sidewalks in the Downtown Austin Community Court area, defined by this map, which includes downtown, East Austin, and the west campus of the University of Texas (but not within the campus itself).

The Third Court cited Rule 52.8(a), Action on Petition, used if the court determines from the petition and any response and reply that the relator is not entitled to the relief sought.

Save Austin Now’s last ditch effort

Bill Aleshire
Bill Aleshire

“With the Amended Petition we are making the same argument we made to the Court of Appeals. I am just hopeful that the Supreme Court will agree with us and restrain the City Council from violating the City Charter and trying to prejudice the election results by tampering with the ballot language,” attorney Bill Aleshire said in an email.

The Austin City Council is having a special called meeting today starting at 10am and an item is on the agenda to allow revising the ballot language should the Supreme Court rule in time. The meeting was in progress as this article is published.

Update: A City spokesperson at 11:34 am said,  “Item 7 on today’s Special Called Council agenda, which relates to ballot language for Proposition B, is being withdrawn following last night’s Court of Appeals ruling in favor of the City.

“The item is being placed on the agenda for next week’s Council as a placeholder in case of an adverse ruling from the Texas Supreme Court. The City continues to believe the ballot language correctly identifies the chief features of the proposed ordinance.”

(Disclosure: Aleshire represented The Austin Bulldog in two public information lawsuits in 2011. He currently serves as volunteer attorney for the Bulldog’s public information requests.)

Renea Hicks

Contacted by telephone this morning, the City’s outside attorney, Renea Hicks, said of the Third Court’s terse ruling, “That’s typical in a weak situation like this,” referring to the relator’s case.

Hicks said it’s up to the Supreme Court to decide if it wants a response from the city and if so, “They would notify folks in my situation.”

Photo of Ken MartinTrust indicators: Ken Martin has been doing investigative reporting in the three-county Austin metro area since 1981. You can learn more about Ken on the About page.

Links to related documents:

Save Austin Now’s 1st Amended Original Emergency Petition for Writ of Mandamus, February 25, 2021 (161 pages)

Third Court of Appeals Memorandum Opinion, February 24, 2021 (1 page)

Links to related Bulldog coverage:

City files response to Save Austin Now lawsuit, February 24, 2021

National Homelessness Law Center amicus brief in response to Relators’ Emergency Petition for Writ of Mandamus, February 25, 2021 (22 pages) 20210225 Amicus

Response to the amicus brief from Bill Aleshire, attorney for the Relators, February 25, 2021 (1 page) 20210225 Aleshire

Save Austin Now petitioners file suit challenging ballot language, February 21, 2021

Council’s ballot language triggers lawsuit(s), August 11, 2018

Ballot language draws second lawsuit, August 17, 2018