Court Rejects Governor Brown’s Arguments to Skirt Court Decision and to Let State Borrow Money for California High-Speed Rail

While Governor Brown and a majority in the California legislature seem to tolerate the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s violations of state law, the judicial branch of California government recognizes that the Authority is failing to comply with Proposition 1A.

On April 15, 2014, the California 3rd District Court of Appeal rejected an extraordinary appeal backed by Governor Jerry Brown, Attorney General Kamala Harris, Treasurer Bill Lockyer, and the California High-Speed Rail Authority. These top state officials wanted the appeals court to suppress two decisions of a lower court so the state could borrow money for the High-Speed Train Program by selling bonds.

The Docket (Register of Actions) for California High-Speed Rail Authority et al. v. The Superior Court of Sacramento County (Case No. C076042) states the following:

The Petition for Extraordinary Writ of Mandate or Other Appropriate Writ is denied. The standard of review for a judgment on the pleadings is the same as for a judgment following sustaining of a demurrer; we look only to the face of the pleading under attack. [Citations.] … All facts alleged in the complaint are admitted for purposes of the motion and the court determines whether these facts constitute a cause of action. [Citations.] (Hughes v. Western MacArthur Co. (1987) 192 Cal.App.3d 951, 954-955.) The parties’ motions for judicial notice are denied. RAYE, P.J. (RoBu) … Case Complete.

In 2013, a Sacramento County Superior Court judge found that the California High-Speed Rail Authority failed to comply with provisions of Proposition 1A, the “Safe, Reliable High-Speed Passenger Train Bond Act,” approved by 52.7% of California voters on November 5, 2008. (See links to these court decisions, below.)

Governor Brown and the California High-Speed Rail Authority wanted the court to disregard the promises the state legislature made to California voters when it placed Proposition 1A on the ballot. In their mindset, the vote of the people to authorize the state to borrow money for California High-Speed Rail overrides the burden to actually comply with the law. In fact, desperate supporters of the project are increasingly making this “democratic” argument.

But we still live in a constitutional republic, not a democracy, and the courts will not allow the California High-Speed Rail Authority to spend money in a way that violates the law. It does not matter how many politicians or political activists support the bullet train or how “important” or “innovative” this $68 billion San Francisco to Los Angeles train will be for humanity.

Ultimately, the California High-Speed Rail Authority will have to follow the law, ask voters to change the law, or shut down operations until new people are governing the state.

News Media Coverage

Appeals Court Denies Petition, Clears Way for High-Speed Rail Trial by Tim Sheehan in the Fresno Bee – April 16, 2014

Court Refuses Appeal of High-Speed Rail Project: Part 2 Prop 1A Lawsuit Will Proceed by Kathy Hamilton in – April 16, 2014

What is Governor Brown Trying to Stop?

The coalition of individuals, local governments, business organizations, and taxpayer associations (including Citizens for California High-Speed Rail Accountability) that won this April 15, 2014 decision have already won in court as a plaintiff in a Prop 1A compliance lawsuit against the California High-Speed Rail Authority and as a defendant in a bond validation lawsuit filed by the California High-Speed Rail Authority. Read those decisions here:

November 25, 2013 California High Speed Rail Authority Bond Validation Lawsuit Ruling

High-Speed Rail Authority and High-Speed Passenger Train Finance Committee, for the State of California v. All Persons Interested in the Matter of the Validity of the Authorization and Issuance of General Obligation Bonds to be Issued Pursuant to the Safe, Reliable High-Speed Passenger Train Bond Act for the 21st Century and Certain Proceeding and Matter Related Thereto.

August 16, 2013 Tos v California High-Speed Rail Prop 1A Ruling

November 25, 2013 Tos v California High-Speed Rail Prop 1A Remedy

John Tos, Aaron Fukuda, County of Kings v. California High Speed Rail Authority, et al.

In addition, the same coalition has also won a court decision concerning the inclusion and consideration of arguments in Tos v California High-Speed Rail regarding the promised travel time requirements in Proposition 1A, such as 2 hours 40 minutes from San Francisco to Union Station in Los Angeles.

March 4, 2014 Ruling on Submitted Matter: Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings


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  • Robert S. Allen

    CHSRA talks about “World-Class” HSR in their Business Plan 2014.

    2008 Prop 1A was about “Safe, Reliable” HSR.

    HSR with grade crossings is neither safe nor reliable. Even on track at only 79 mph they can be disastrous. I have called CHSRA’s attention to the Bourbonnais, Illinois, Amtrak train collision 15 years ago, where two locomotives and 11 of 14 passenger cars were derailed, 11 passengers were killed, and 122 injured. That was about two years before 9/11/01, when terrorists hi-jacked commercial airplanes and killed nearly 3000 innocent civilians. I shudder at what they could do with HSR. Several years ago I wrote authorities about that fear, but it seemed to get no response.

    CHSRA should demand total grade separation of vehicle and pedestrian crossings. That is why I sent this to them:

    2008 Prop 1A was “The Safe, Reliable High Speed Passenger Train Bond Act…” HSR operations on railroads with grade crossings are neither safe nor reliable. They are vulnerable to accident, sabotage, and severe train delays. Usually the railroad would incur only minor damage, but not always.

    Witness what happened in Bourbonnais, Illinois, 15 years ago. An Amtrak train on 79 mph track (like at Caltrain) hit a heavily-,loaded truck, derailing two locomotives and 11 of 14 cars, with 11 fatalities and 122 injured passengers. See the pictures in Wikipedia. About two years later, suicidal terrorists commandeered four commercial airplanes and killed nearly 3,000 innocent civilians on September 11, 2001. In today’s world, grade crossings are hazardous, especially on high speed track. Imagine what terrorists could do!

    CHSRA plans to use Caltrain tracks, despite their dozens of grade crossings. Despite my oft-repeated pleas in my 90 seconds at CHSRA meetings, they barely mention grade crossings in their BP 2014. With the much faster HSR trains CHSRA would run, the dangers of grade crossings would sky-rocket.

    Hence my request that CHSRA avoid “Blended Rail” and end their initial operations to the Bay Area at San Jose. Transfers there to Caltrain, Capitol Corridor, and the planned SV-BART line would serve the region far better, with lower risk, and at lower cost than Blended Rail and its “one-seat ride” to a downtown San Francisco terminal.

    Future HSR could well upgrade and follow the Amtrak East Bay route via Mulford and on to Sacramento. From an intermodal transfer station at the BART overhead in Oakland, BART trains about every four minutes would reach the four downtown San Francisco in six to ten minutes.

    To recap:
    Demand total grade separation for HSR.
    Don’t squander more HSR money on “Blended Rail” and Caltrain.
    Truncate HSR for now at San Jose.
    Plan future HSR from San Jose along Amtrak’s East Bay route to Sacramento.
    Include a transfer station at the BART overhead in Oakland.

    Robert S. Allen (925) 449-1387
    BART Director, District 5, 1974-1988
    Retired, SP (now UP) Western Division, Engineering/Operations