PRESIDIO COUNTY, TX (KWES) - A Presidio County landowner filed suit Friday against the Trans-Pecos Pipeline company over the constitutionality of ongoing eminent domain proceedings.
The petition, filed in federal court in Pecos, alleges Texas state law grants eminent domain power to companies in a manner that strips private property owners of rights protected by the Due Process clause in the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The state also fails to employ "standards" defining the boundaries of eminent domain, the lawsuit claims.
Plaintiff John Boerschig previously declined the private pipeline company's offer of $16,500 for the right-of-way across his property, South Shurley Ranch, court documents revealed.
Trans-Pecos Pipeline, LLC initiated eminent domain proceedings against him in March, seeking to condemn a 12.94-acre stretch of his land measuring 50 by 11,271 feet.
A spokesperson for the company declined to comment on ongoing litigation.
"This is wrong," said Renea Hicks, the plaintiff's Austin-based attorney. "The [Texas] government has given [companies such as Trans-Pecos Pipeline, LLC] the power to take your land without setting any rules for it ahead of time."
Texas landowners slapped with condemnation suits have no opportunity to challenge eminent domain claims upon their land until after their property has been seized, he explained.
"Afterwards - after they've taken your property and they're trenching for their pipeline - you might have a chance to go in and say, 'Well, we don't think you are a gas utility,'" said Hicks. "It's kind of like the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland when she says, 'Sentence first - verdict afterwards.'"
Boerschig is seeking to bar the pipeline company from taking possession of his property until his two claims of unconstitutionality are resolved, according to an application for preliminary injunction filed by Hicks.
However, the injunction must be in place before a valuation hearing scheduled for July 14 in order to be effective, the application states.
"Don't let them do the deed first and then decide later whether or not what they're doing is appropriate," said Hicks. "It's all backwards."