Tag Archives: Stuart Flashman

Court Hears Arguments on California High-Speed Rail Authority Prop 1A Compliance

Several members of Citizens for California High Speed Rail Accountability (CCHSRA) attended the February 11, 2016 Sacramento County Superior Court hearing in Tos v. California High-Speed Rail Authority. From throughout the state, critics of the current high-speed rail project joined CCHSRA members in the courtroom to watch oral arguments in this pivotal lawsuit for the People of California.

Along with CCHSRA, John Tos and the County of Kings contend that the Authority has failed to comply with Proposition 1A. This is the ballot measure, approved by 53% of California voters in November 2008, that authorized the state to borrow $9.95 billion to start building the high-speed train system.Flashman and Brady at Tos v California High-Speed Rail Authority

Attorneys Stuart Flashman and Mike Brady came to the hearing prepared to make this case for Mr. Tos and Kings County. They refuted many of the claims of the state attorneys representing the California High-Speed Rail Authority.

Here are some of the arguments from Mr. Flashman and Mr. Brady:

  • Prop 1A as presented to voters contains much more than just an authorization for the state to issue bonds. It sets specific criteria for the construction and operation of the system itself. For example, Prop 1A requires the train to be capable of traveling between San Francisco and Los Angeles in 2 hours and 40 minutes, with five minutes between each train.
  • Authoritative studies and analyses (for example, from Caltrans) indicate that the mandates of 2 hour, 40 minute travel time and five minutes between trains cannot be achieved under the blended plan. And the slower and less frequent trains under the blended plan mean that ridership and revenue projects do not achieve the Prop 1A guidelines either.
  • Studies and analyses produced for the California High-Speed Rail Authority to demonstrate compliance with Prop 1A are based on erroneous, unlikely, and untested assumptions.
  • California High-Speed Rail was portrayed to voters as a dedicated track system, not a “blended” system in which the high-speed train shares track with commuter rails (Caltrain and Metrolink). There are no references to a blended system in the 2005 and 2008 Environmental Impact Reports related to the project. The 2012 legislative mandate for the system to share track with commuter rail was a novel development that surfaced after Prop 1A was enacted by voters.
  • If the California legislature or the Authority wants to deviate from Prop 1A, they need to ask voters to authorize those changes. Prop 1A was a constitutional measure that cannot be altered by simple legislative action.

Here are some of the arguments from the California High-Speed Rail Authority:

  • Like in Phase 1 of this lawsuit, it is premature to claim that Prop 1A guidelines can’t be met.
  • The Authority was required to develop a blended approach by the legislature. This plan served the public by reducing the cost of Phase 1 from $98 billion to $68 billion.
  • There is a lot of evidence in the administrative record showing that the Authority can meet the requirements of Prop 1A.
  • The court needs to defer to the decisions of the experts of the agency working on the project.
  • Parties to the lawsuit are inappropriately challenging experts.
  • When the judge asked the Authority’s attorney what would happen if the court determined that the Authority could not fulfill the Prop 1A travel times, the attorney responded that it would be the fault of the legislature, not the Authority.

A ruling is expected in 60-90 days.

News Media Coverage

California High-Speed Rail: Landowners’ Lawsuit Goes Before Judge – Associated Press (via San Jose Mercury-News) – February 11, 2016

Kings County Opponents of High-Speed Rail Get Their Court DateFresno Bee – February 11, 2016

Lawsuit Contends the California Bullet Train Project Is Violating State LawLos Angeles Times – February 12, 2016

Legal Challenge Could Freeze Billions In Funds For California’s Bullet Train – Capitol Public Radio (via KVPR – Valley Public Radio) – February 11, 2016

Videos from Court Hearing (courtesy of DerailHSR)

Part 1 – Tos v. California High-Speed Rail Authority – Sacramento County Superior Court

Part 2 – Tos v. California High-Speed Rail Authority – Sacramento County Superior Court

Part 3 – Tos v. California High-Speed Rail Authority – Sacramento County Superior Court

High-Speed Rail Opponents Seek California Supreme Court Review – Press Conference on September 2 in San Francisco

HIGH-SPEED RAIL OPPONENTS SEEK CALIFORNIA SUPREME COURT REVIEW

Attorneys challenging the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s bond funding will hold a press conference on Tuesday, September 2, 2014 to explain the petitions they are filing with the California Supreme Court. Michael Brady and Stuart Flashman, representing John Tos, Aaron Fukuda and Kings County, will offer copies of the Petition for Review they plan to file that morning.

Here’s the location, time, and date of the press conference:

Sidewalk in front of the California Supreme Court Building
350 McAllister Street, San Francisco
Tuesday, September 2, 2014 at 10:30 AM

In addition, Harold Johnson of the Pacific Legal Foundation will discuss the petition he will be filing on behalf of the First Free Will Baptist Church in Bakersfield. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association will also be represented at the press conference, barring scheduling difficulties.

The petitions ask the Supreme Court to review the Third District Court of Appeal decision overturning two trial rulings that had hamstrung Californiaʼs High-Speed Rail project. The Appellate Court ruled that “The Legislature appropriated the bond proceeds based on the preliminary funding plan, however deficient, and there is no present duty to redo the plan.”

The Court also held that no evidence was needed to show that it was “necessary or desirable” to issue bonds, reversing the trial court ruling that had prevented the sale of bonds and effectively erasing that provision from the ballot measure. Plaintiff’s lead counsel, Michael Brady, says “The Authority is now on life support; it has been granted a stay of execution by the Court of Appeal. This filing seeks to lift that stay.”

Stuart Flashman, co-counsel adds, “The Court of Appeal ruling overturns longstanding precedents in the interpretation of bond measures. If these decisions stand, voters will lose trust in future bond measures.”

Harold Johnson of the Pacific Legal Foundation says “The High Speed Rail project must be fully transparent and fully faithful to the law. Evading accountability can’t be allowed on one of the most expensive public works projects in U.S. history.”

The Tos Petition for Review will be available on the morning of September 2, at the bottom of the TRANSDEF web page, along with all documents from these two cases. Three other claims in the Tos case are still pending in the trial court.

You can also read the court decision and the petition for review at these links:

September 1, 2014 Tos / Fukuda / Kings County Petition to California Supreme Court for Review of California High-Speed Rail Decisions

July 31, 2014 California Appeals Court Decision in Favor of California High-Speed Rail Authority

Background

The Tos v. California High-Speed Rail Authority case was brought by a farmer, a rural homeowner and Kings County. It asked the Court to block the Authority from using bond funds because the project failed to meet the ballot measureʼs requirements.

In November 2013, Judge Michael Kenny ruled that the High-Speed Rail Authorityʼs Funding Plan failed to properly certify, as the bond measure required, that all needed environmental clearances had been obtained and that sufficient funding was available to complete the Merced-to-San-Fernando-Valley segment of the project.

In California High-Speed Rail Authority et al. v. All Persons Interested et al., Judge Kennyʼs ruling blocked the issuance of bonds because of another failure to satisfy bond measure requirements.

For more information, please visit us at http://www.cchsra.org and/or contact Shelli Andranigian at andranigianmedia7@att.net. Thank you.

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Court Allows California High-Speed Rail to Violate Terms in Voter-Approved Bond Measure: Press Release from Legal Team

On July 31, 2014, the California 3rd District Court of Appeal overturned two lower court decisions and sided with the California High-Speed Rail Authority and Governor Jerry Brown. It allowed the California High-Speed Rail Authority to borrow $9 billion for high-speed rail as authorized by Proposition 1A, approved by voters in November 2008. Here is the decision:

3rd District Court of Appeal Decision: California High-Speed Rail Authority et al. v. The Superior Court of Sacramento County (John Tos, Real Party in Interest) 

Here is a press release from the legal team that argued against the California High-Speed Rail Authority. They argued that the Authority had violated some of the provisions of Proposition 1A and therefore could not borrow money by selling bonds as authorized by voters in 2008 under Proposition 1A.

 

August 1, 2014
For Immediate Release

COURT OF APPEAL ALLOWS HIGH-SPEED RAIL TO VIOLATE BOND MEASURE

The Third District Court of Appeal late yesterday overturned two trial rulings that had hamstrung Californiaʼs still-embattled High-Speed Rail project. The Court ruled that “The Legislature appropriated the bond proceeds based on the preliminary funding plan, however deficient, and there is no present duty to redo the plan.”

Plaintiff’s lead counsel, Michael Brady, was disappointed with the ruling. He said “The voters approved Proposition 1A only because it included stringent requirements to protect the state from financial risk. The Court ruled that although the project did not meet the requirements, taxpayers have no remedy now. They can only sue after many more tens of millions of dollars are spent on design and analysis.”

Stuart Flashman, co-counsel added, “The court has essentially allowed the Authority to ignore promises it, and the legislature, made to Californiaʼs voters. It bodes ill for votersʼ willingness to trust such promises in the future. Supreme Court review appears warranted.”

In November 2013, Judge Michael Kenny ruled that the High-Speed Rail Authorityʼs Funding Plan failed to properly certify, as the bond measure required, that all needed environmental clearances had been obtained and sufficient funding was available to complete the Merced to San Fernando Valley segment of the project.

The Tos v. California High-Speed Rail Authority case was brought by a farmer, a rural homeowner and Kings County. It asked the Court to block the Authority from using bond funds because the project failed to meet the ballot measureʼs requirements.

In addition, the appeals court reversed Kennyʼs ruling that blocked the issuance of bonds because of another failure to satisfy bond measure requirements. In California High-Speed Rail Authority et al. v. All Persons Interested, the appellate court held that no evidence was needed to show that it was “necessary or desirable” to issue the bonds – effectively erasing that provision from the ballot measure.

Click here to access documents from the two cases. Three other claims in the Tos case are still pending in the trial court.

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