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Bexar-Medina-Atascosa Counties Water Control v. Bandera County River Authority

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio

September 13, 2017

BEXAR-MEDINA-ATASCOSA COUNTIES WATER CONTROL AND IMPROVEMENT DISTRICT NO. 1, Appellant/Cross-Appellee
v.
BANDERA COUNTY RIVER AUTHORITY AND GROUNDWATER DISTRICT, Appellee/Cross-Appellant

         From the 198th Judicial District Court, Bandera County, Texas Trial Court No. CV-13-351 Honorable M. Rex Emerson, Judge Presiding

          Sitting: Sandee Bryan Marion, Chief Justice, Karen Angelini, Justice, Patricia O. Alvarez, Justice

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Sandee Bryan Marion, Chief Justice

         This is an appeal and cross-appeal from a judgment entered after the trial court denied Bexar-Medina-Atascosa Counties Water Control & Improvement District No. 1's ("BMA") plea to the jurisdiction, granted a declaratory summary judgment in favor of Bandera County River Authority and Groundwater District ("Bandera Water District"), but denied Bandera Water District's request for attorney's fees. One of the issues raised for the first time on appeal is whether BMA is immune from Bandera Water District's declaratory judgment claims. Because we hold BMA is immune from the claims, we reverse the trial court's judgment. We remand the cause to the trial court to allow Bandera Water District the opportunity to amend its pleading in an attempt to cure the jurisdictional defects in its petition.

         Background

         Bandera Water District sued BMA seeking "a declaratory judgment that BMA has no jurisdiction in Bandera County to do any of the following:

(1) Inspect private or public water wells;
(2) Enforce any jurisdiction or rules over groundwater or surface water;
(3) Investigate any types of alleged water well violations;
(4) Promulgate any rules relating to groundwater; and
(5) Exercise any rights as a water control and improvement district."

         In its petition, Bandera Water District alleged BMA's jurisdiction did not extend beyond the boundaries of Bexar, Medina, and Atascosa Counties; therefore, BMA had no jurisdiction in Bandera County.

         BMA filed a plea to the jurisdiction asserting the trial court lacked jurisdiction because no justiciable controversy existed between the parties. Specifically, BMA asserted Bandera Water District could not show "any of the five enumerated items for which it seeks declaratory relief have occurred or are imminent; therefore, there is no justiciable controversy which is ripe for determination." The trial court denied the plea.

         The parties also filed competing motions for summary judgment. The trial court granted Bandera Water District's motion and denied BMA's motion. In its order, the trial court stated the judgment was final "save and except for the amount of Plaintiff's attorney's fees." After a subsequent hearing on the attorney's fees issue, the trial court denied Bandera Water ...


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