State of Texas’ evil plan foiled again: Texas Supreme Court affirms coastal property owner’s claim to her own land

Do Right cast

The Texas Supreme Court did its best collective Dudley Do-Right impersonation today, rescuing poor Nell Fenwick from the clutches of the state’s Open Beaches Act.

Somewhere, perhaps inside the General Land Office in Austin, Snidely Whiplash is twisting the end of his handlebar mustache, spitting out between gritted teeth, “Curses, foiled again.”

For the second time in the same case, the court ruled that an act of nature cannot erode an owner’s property rights under state law, even in conflict with the law giving the public access to state-owned land on the Gulf of Mexico, according to an Associated Press story today.

The vote was 5-3. Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson did not vote.

When first we met Nell, by which we mean Carol Severance, in 2005, the San Diego lawyer was discovering that Hurricane Rita had moved Galveston beach from the front to the back of one of the four beachfront properties she owns.

Contending a public easement no longer existed, Snidely, er, Jerry Patterson, the state Land Commissioner, ordered the Severance home demolished. Severance sued the state.

The state Supreme Court ruled in favor of Severance in 2010, but the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals asked for a second ruling to answer additional legal questions.

Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or or on Twitter at @marktxwatchdog.

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