An attorney representing five federal pilots seeking state licenses to guide vessels into local ports has filed a motion for summary judgment and a transfer motion, hoping to accelerate the end of a long dispute involving the Board of Pilot Commissioners, local pilots and the governor of Texas.
Justin Renshaw, the attorney representing the federal pilots, is challenging a long-standing practice of allowing harbor pilots associations in Texas to act as legal monopolies and comes as a debate rages between the pilots and cruise ship lines operating out of the Port of Galveston over tariff rates and fog delays.
Renshaw initially filed the lawsuit in July 2017 in the 261st District Court in Travis County against the five members of the Board of Pilot Commissioners for Galveston County, arguing the group is facilitating an illegal monopoly.
The Board of Pilot Commissioners, a five-member panel appointed by the governor, has historically granted state licenses only to members of the Galveston-Texas City Pilots Association.
The summary judgment motion filed Feb. 21 further builds on that argument, requesting the judge declare sections of the Texas Transportation Code unconstitutional, as it applies to pilotage in Galveston County, and granting the plaintiffs further relief.
Since the initial filing in July 2017, an attorney representing the Galveston-Texas City Pilots Association has joined the lawsuit over applications the federal pilots filed in August 2016.
The 16-member association charges a tariff on each foreign-flagged oil tanker, cruise passenger ship or other vessel its members pilot into or out of ports in the county.
Tariff rates and licenses must be approved by the pilot commissioners. The pilots association does not face competition, a system predicated on the belief that pilots vying for business might take unnecessary risks and cause unsafe waterways.
Renshaw also included Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in the lawsuit, arguing that he is not fulfilling his duty as a rules maker.
The same day Renshaw filed the motion for summary judgment, he also filed a request to transfer the case to the Texas Third Court of Appeals.
“Given the issues are of first impression, it is entirely likely that this case will be appealed to the Texas Supreme Court regardless of the outcome below,” Renshaw said.
A Texas City-based environmental cleaning company is suing a competitor and a former employee, asserting the competitor has been stealing employees and violating noncompete agreements.
Evergreen Environmental Services on Thursday filed a lawsuit in the 212th District Court against HydroChem — a Deer Park business with a location in Texas City — and Daniel Adams, a former employee.
Adams’ former boss, Bubba Fitch, went to work for HydroChem in 2017, despite having a noncompete clause in his contract, according to the lawsuit.
Officials with Evergreen filed suit against Fitch and the two sides resolved the matter by saying Fitch wouldn’t recruit any Evergreen employees until after Feb. 1, the lawsuit asserts.
“Mr. Fitch and his new company, HydroChem, have now apparently launched a campaign to attempt to hire a substantial part of, if not all of, the Evergreen Tank Cleaning Division that Mr. Fitch oversaw for Evergreen, including a number of employees that HydroChem and Mr. Fitch known are subject to noncompete agreements,” according to the lawsuit.
Adams is one of those employees, according to the complaint.
The lawsuit seeks more than $1 million in damages.
The defendants have not yet responded to the lawsuit, court records show.
SLIP AND FALL
A Galveston County woman is suing sports retailer Academy Sports + Outdoors, asserting she was injured while visiting the chain’s Webster store.
Kersten Conway filed the lawsuit against Academy Feb. 6 in the Galveston County Court at Law No. 3, records show.
Conway was visiting the Webster store in June 2017 when she slipped and fell in a large puddle of water, according to the lawsuit.
“This fall caused plaintiff extreme pain and mental anguish as she was unable to lift herself off the floor due to her injuries,” according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit seeks between $200,000 and $1 million in damages, court records show.
The defendant has not yet responded to the lawsuit, records show.
TRIALS THIS WEEK
Three trials are set for Galveston County courts this week, Assistant Criminal District Attorney Bill Reed, the felony division chief, said.
The 56th District Court will host a jury to hear evidence against Luis Fernando Lerma, 21, on a charge of sexual assault of a child.
The 212th District Court will host a jury to hear evidence against Willard Bernard Welch Jr., 36, on a charge of possession of a controlled substance.
The 405th District Court will host a jury to hear evidence against Jeff Craig Janecka, 50, on a charge of manufacture and delivery of a controlled substance.