Lawyers for Texas rancher blast Paxton’s claim of Supreme Court win

Attorneys for a Texas man who sued the state for property damage criticized Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) on Tuesday, saying Paxton’s claims of victory in a Supreme Court decision on the case are false.

The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that Richie DeVillier can sue Texas under state law for property damage after his home was flooded by Hurricane Harvey in 2017 due to changes to nearby Interstate 10.

The state initially argued that DeVillier’s claims should be thrown out, but Paxton claimed victory in the case Tuesday despite a unanimous decision against the state’s argument.

“Today we secured a unanimous 9-0 win at the U.S. Supreme Court in a case protecting the ability of Texas to handle compensation disputes under State law for any allegedly taken property,” Paxton wrote in a post on the social platform X.

“For as long as Texas has been Texas, it has recognized that property rights are crucial to a free society,” he continued. “Under the U.S. Constitution, such claims should be pursued under state law unless Congress has said otherwise.”

Attorney Patrick Jaicomo, who works for the Institute for Justice, which litigated the case for DeVillier, went after Paxton’s claims in a response on X.

“Ken, you lost this case,” he said, pointing out that the court vacated an appeals court ruling that the state requested it uphold.

DeVillier initially sued Texas in 2020 under state law for property damages, but the state moved the case to federal court, where Paxton’s office attempted to dismiss DeVillier’s claims on lack of standing.

Jaicomo also highlighted a comment Justice Sonia Sotomayor made in oral arguments, when she described the state’s move to federal court and then to dismiss the claims as a “bait and switch.”

The Supreme Court agreed with Texas that DeVillier does not have constitutional grounds to sue for damages in federal court, but found that he can sue under state law. Paxton’s claims of victory relate to the constitutional claims, even though DeVillier’s suit against Texas will now continue back in state court.

“After Texas spent untold amounts of time and taxpayer dollars trying to get Richie’s Fifth Amendment claims dismissed, Richie will get to litigate his Fifth Amendment claims,” Robert McNamara, the Institute for Justice’s deputy director, wrote in a statement. “The party that gets what he wants is the party that won. What Texas did is called losing. Only a politician would claim to have won a case he lost.”

DeVillier’s case is representative of about 120 homeowners east of Houston who claim the severe flooding their homes experienced during Hurricane Harvey was due to the construction of a makeshift flood barrier on Interstate 10.

State law enforcement built a 3-foot makeshift dam to keep back floodwaters so the interstate could be used as an evacuation route. The homeowners claim the barriers exacerbated severe flooding in the area, causing massive damage to the homes.

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