December 10, 2007
What's a bond validation lawsuit?

I confess, this story from Saturday confuses me.

In a little-publicized decision, a judge in Travis County signed off this week on the validity of the Houston Independent School District's $805 million bond election.

The pre-emptive court action means that HISD won't be handcuffed from selling the bonds, even if critics file a lawsuit against the district for its handling of the election.

HISD took its lesson from the Waller school district, in neighboring Waller County, which has seen more than $49 million in bond money put on hold because of a legal challenge that thus far has received little backing in court.

"It's absolutely the right thing to do," HISD spokesman Terry Abbott said Friday. "The election is over. We need to move on and build schools."

But the legal maneuver has infuriated critics of the bond issue, who plan to officially respond Monday.


[Three days after the November 6 election], HISD filed a bond validation lawsuit in Travis County. The school board discussed the lawsuit the following week, partly during a closed-door meeting.

Pat Mizell, a partner with the Vinson & Elkins law firm, said he filed the case in Austin because "the Austin courts are more accustomed to this type of administrative proceeding."

"There was no attempt to hide anything," Mizell said, adding that HISD posted legal notice of the court action and the school board meeting.

Ty Clevenger, the attorney representing the Waller County resident who is suing the Waller district, disagreed.

"It was a really dirty trick," he said. "They had absolutely no other reason to file in Travis County other than to hide it."

The proceedings unfolded without the knowledge of the most vocal critics of HISD's bond plan, who said they would have appeared at the Dec. 3 hearing in the court of state District Judge John K. Dietz.

As it was, no opponents spoke in court, HISD officials said.

Okay, what the heck is a bond-validation lawsuit, and under what conditions does one file such a thing? I don't know how to judge this action without knowing if it's a standard thing to do or not. How often does this happen?

I can say that whatever the case, filing it in Austin with apparently minimal notice does strike me as an attempt to hide things. Maybe it wouldn't have mattered anyway, and maybe the bond opponents should have been prepared for HISD to take this action, but still. The fact that no opponents spoke in court is pretty telling.

So anyway. Dirty trick or clever gambit? Help me out here if you can. Thanks.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on December 10, 2007 to Election 2007
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