City Hall

Dallas is Taking Muni Judge Phyllis Brown's Case to the Texas Supreme Court

Last November Phyllis Lister Brown, who at the time was a city of Dallas municipal judge of 17 years, filed a lawsuit against the city. It was a preemptive strike. Brown was preparing a run for a seat on the 162nd Civil District Court and expected the city require her to resign in order to do so, which is exactly what happened.

Brown and the city have been battling it out in court filings ever since. The city, citing a provision of its charter, argues that Brown isn't allowed to keep her seat. Brown has contended that the provision doesn't apply to municipal judges, who fall under state, not city, oversight. (The charter reads: "[I]f a member of any board appointed by the council or any appointive officer of the city becomes a candidate for nomination or election to any public office, he or she shall immediately forfeit his or her place or position with the city."

The case may eventually get a hearing on its merits, but that hasn't happened yet. The city appealed District Judge Martin Lowy's ruling that Dallas isn't immune to Brown's lawsuit simply by virtue of being a city. The appeal failed, as did the city's request for a rehearing of the appeal before the Fifth Judicial District Court of Appeals in Dallas.

So time to get on with a trial, right? Not quite. Last week, the city asked city asked the state Supreme Court to review the appeals court's decision, as first reported by Courthouse News.

The city asserts in the filing that, yes, it is too immune from Brown's suit and that failure to recognize that would yield a veritable flood (or "multiplicity," to use the city's verbiage) of similar lawsuits challenging its ability to appoint and remove personnel.

Brown's attorney disagrees.

"We're disappointed that the city and City Council continue to delay the trial of this case by repeating arguments already rejected by the district court and Dallas Court of Appeals," Ray Guy, Brown's attorney, said Wednesday. "The request for review by the Supreme Court is entirely without merit."

The city's filing does not guarantee a hearing before the Supreme Court, which can decide not to take the case. Guy said he plans to file a response with the court. Meanwhile, having cruised through the primary, Brown seems poised to win the 162nd Civil District seat come November.

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Eric Nicholson
Contact: Eric Nicholson