Judge checks in on border fence litigation in Brownsville - The Monitor: News

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Judge checks in on border fence litigation in Brownsville

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Posted: Wednesday, April 17, 2013 8:00 am

BROWNSVILLE — A prolonged fight over 0.026 acres of land along the Rio Grande is slowly edging forward after U.S. District Judge Andrew S. Hanen ordered the landowner’s lawyers to start talking to the government.

In 2008, the U.S. government sued Eloisa G. Tamez and 14 other landowners — including the Brownsville and Matamoros Bridge Co. — in an effort to take the properties and build sections of the border fence on them, court documents show.

“The public purpose for which said land is taken is to construct, install, operate, and maintain roads, fencing, vehicle barriers, security lighting, and related structures designed to help secure the United States/Mexico border within the State of Texas,” the original suit states.

That litigation was filed July 1, 2008.

Hanen said he called Tuesday’s hearing because he wanted to know the status of the case because “it kind of stalled.”

According to the government, the case stalled because lead California-based lawyer Peter Schey, who represents the landowners, wasn’t responding to routine court matters.

The government filed a motion April 1 to take immediate possession of the property.

“Counsel for the United States of America has exercised due diligence in attempting to reach defendant’s counsel regarding this Motion but all recent attempts to contact Defendant’s counsel have failed,” the document states.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric A. Hudson said Tuesday it’s the government’s view that since it didn’t receive any response in 21 days, all objections by Tamez’s counsel were waived.

But Schey filed an opposed motion Monday.

“The agreed upon Proposed Scheduling Order sets deadlines and trial in this cause well into the future and it is unclear why, and plaintiff has failed to explain why, it requires an immediate Order of possession on the small strip of additional land involved in its present motion,” the document states.

The motion suggests allowing “reasonable time” for the United States to file a memorandum of points and authorities supporting its request for immediate possession, for the defendants to file oppositions, for the government to file any reply briefs and then for a prompt hearing to be held.

However, Hanen said he thought the case has dragged on long enough.

“I’m not going to make the government jump through hoops if y’all aren’t going to respond,” Hanen said, adding that he thought Tamez’s lawyers were acting negligent. “You’ve got to act like responsible counsel of record.”

The judge called it unfair to Tamez and the court for the government to not receive responses from the attorney.

Hanen scheduled an April 30 hearing on the motion for immediate possession and suggested that the landowners consider hiring a third lawyer or removing Schey from the case.

Schey said his clients were working to include a third, local, attorney.

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Mark Reagan writes for The Brownsville Herald. He can be reached at mreagan@brownsvilleherald.com.

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