It doesn't mean much in practice, but it's still a win.
In an ongoing legal battle that could have a major impact on Texas taxpayers and school districts, a Travis County judge refused Wednesday to grant a new bond validation hearing for opponents of the Houston district's $805 million bond package.
State District Judge Gisela Triana declined to vacate her December ruling that validated the election process, a decision needed before the bonds can be sold.
Leaders in the Houston Independent School District called the ruling a big win, saying they hope the state attorney general will decide soon on whether to sign off on the bond money. The funds are planned for projects including construction of 24 schools and repair of 134 others.
Like its neighbors in the much smaller Waller school district, HISD faces state and federal challenges to its recent bond election. While opponents in both districts have had little legal success, their challenges have blocked sale of the bonds.
In Waller, lawyers estimate that the delays are costing taxpayers $40,000 a week because of inflation in construction costs. HISD's loss could be several times higher, an attorney said.
Still, Ty Clevenger, the lawyer for opponents to both bond issues, said he will appeal Triana's decision and continue his fight in federal court, where critics accuse HISD of shortchanging minority students. HISD disputes that, saying about 90 percent of its students are black or Hispanic.
"This is a partial victory because (the judge) does not construe her order to prevent us from proceeding in federal court," Clevenger said. "So that prevents the school district from waving this order in front of the attorney general and saying, 'You have to approve these bonds.' "
Triana told Clevenger and HISD's attorney, Pat Mizell, that her order doesn't prevent a federal court from reviewing civil rights claims raised by bond opponents. She said she would be extremely upset if either one misrepresented her position in federal court.
In the Waller case, Mizell is asking the Texas Supreme Court to order the attorney general to release the bond money.
In rare cases, the high court has ordered the attorney general to approve bonds. The attorney general also has signed off on bonds after concluding that pending litigation was frivolous, say attorneys who specialize in bonds.