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June 25, 2012-Dallas County Commissioners Court Prevails In An Injunction Action

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6/25/2012

By Camille Stearns Miller
Partner, White & Wiggins LLP

On September 29, 2011, Senior United States District Judge Royal Furgeson issued an Order Denying a Preliminary Injunction against the requests of three elected Dallas County Constables and a score of unnamed deputy constables in a litigious battle regarding deputy constable positions within the Dallas County Constables’ offices. On August 30, 2011, Dallas County Constable Beth Villareal, Dallas County Constable Ben Adamcik, Dallas County Constable Roy Williams and over twenty-five un-named John Does and Jane Does (deputy constables) (hereinafter referred to as “Constables”) obtained a Temporary Restraining Order prohibiting Defendants Dallas County, Dallas County Commissioners Court, Commissioner Clay Jenkins, Commissioner John Wiley Price ( in their respective official and individual capacities) Commissioner Maurine Dickey, Commissioner Elba Garcia and Commissioner Mike Cantrell (in their official capacities) from taking steps to enact a Court Order which would reduce the budget in the respective Constables’ offices and eliminate several deputy constables’ positions (“referred to as Agenda Item No. 17”). Plaintiffs alleged that with the passing of this Court Order, Dallas County Commissioners Court would wrongfully transfer core functions of the Dallas County Constables’ offices to the Dallas Sheriff’s Department. Further, Plaintiffs alleged that once the reduction of the budget took place, Defendants planned to circumvent the standard reduction in force policy set forth in the Local Government Code. White & Wiggins LLP served as lead counsel for the Defendants and coordinated a defense which ultimately led to the Order issued by the Court Denying Plaintiffs’ Motion for Preliminary Injunction. Plaintiffs in their Complaint sought affirmative relief for alleged violations of free speech and substantive due process under the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U. S. Constitution; alleged violations of §42 U.S.C. §§1993 and 1988; free speech and retaliation and alleged violations of Chapter 554 of the Texas Government Code (the Texas Whistleblower’s Act).


The crux of the case was based upon proposed Agenda Item No. 17 on the docket of the Dallas County Commissioners Court to reduce the Constables’ budget. The impact of the budget reduction was the elimination of approximately thirty –two (32) deputy constable positions. Simultaneously, Dallas County Commissioners Court planned to add twenty-three (23) positions to the Sheriff’s Department and transfer the service of eviction civil service papers from the Constables’ office to the Sheriff’s Department. Plaintiffs alleged that the real reason for the proposed budgetary reduction was due to retaliation. Many of the un-named Jane and John Doe deputy constables had allegedly provided information to a consultant hired by the Dallas County Commissioners Court named Defenbaugh & Associates. Plaintiffs’ alleged that due to the information shared with Danny Defenbaugh and his staff, the proposed reduction in the DALLAS COUNTY COMMISSIONERS COURT PREVAILS IN AN INJUNCTION ACTION WHITE & WIGGINS, LLP budget was in retaliation for information provided by various deputy constables during the investigation.


The Firm prepared a Motion to Dismiss which argued that the court did not have subject matter jurisdiction, Plaintiffs lacked standing and Plaintiffs failed to state a claim for which relief could be granted. Additional arguments were made alleging that Plaintiffs claims were not “ripe” since Dallas County Commissioners Court had not passed the reduction item yet on their agenda and that the court could not enjoin a legislative activity such as “voting on a budget”. Judge Furgeson agreed and stated that “despite the probability that the Commissioners Court would have passed Agenda Item 17 as proposed, interference with the enactment of legislation is not within the province of the judiciary since a court’s remedies ‘are not available against void legislation… until its enforcement’” . City of Dallas v. Dallas Consolidated Street Rwy. Co., 105 Tex. 337, 343 (Tex. 1912). The court held that the rule remains in force today. As a result, Judge Furgeson issued an Order Denying Plaintiffs’ Application for Preliminary Injunction and dissolved the Temporary Restraining Order. The case was abated and all proceedings were stayed pending further action by the Dallas County Commissioners Court. Once the Order was issued by the court, the Dallas County Commissioners Court passed Agenda Item No. 17, reduced the budget in the Dallas County Constables’ offices and eliminated the 32 positions. As a result of existing vacancies within the Constables’ offices, none of the deputy constables were laid off as a result of the agenda item passed by the Dallas County Commissioners Court. Ultimately the case was dismissed without prejudice. For further questions about this matter, or about the Firm’s practice with state, county or municipal entities, contact Camille Stearns Miller at (214) 665-4158 or cstearnsmiller@whitewiggins.com The content of this Update is for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute advertising, invite an attorney-client relationship or serve as a source for legal advice or services. Use of any information from this Update, or the sending of electronic mail from our website, DOES NOT create an attorney-client relationship. Because we are not providing legal advice through this Update, you should not rely on or act on any information contained herein for any purpose without seeking legal advice from a duly licensed attorney competent to practice law in your jurisdiction.