The Supreme Court of Texas has reversed an appellate court’s order based on a related case that was decided by the state’s highest court in April. In Stines v. Jefferson County, Texas, No. 17-0623 (June 15, 2018), a deputy constable, Stine, was terminated from his position in late 2014. Following termination, Stine attempted to invoke his right to arbitration pursuant to the terms of a collective bargaining agreement the Jefferson County Constables Association entered into with Jefferson County, Texas on behalf of its members. After Jefferson County refused Stine’s request, a trial court granted his request to compel the County to participate in binding arbitration proceedings.
On an interlocutory appeal before Texas’s Ninth District in Beaumont, however, the trial court’s order was vacated for lack of jurisdiction after the appellate court determined deputy constables are not police officers who are entitled to engage in collective bargaining under Texas Local Government Code Chapter 174.
Next, Stine filed a petition for review with the Texas Supreme Court. The Issues Presented for Review were:
Issue 1: Whether Chapter 174 of the Texas Local Government Code, titled the Fire and Police Employees Relations Act (“FPERA”) applies to deputy constables such as Petitioner Victor Stines, a Jefferson County deputy constable.
Issue 2: Whether Jefferson County waived governmental immunity by entering into a valid and binding collective bargaining agreement with the Jefferson County Deputy Constables Association.
In a short, 3-page opinion, the Texas high court ultimately resolved the case by stating:
We definitively resolved this issue against the County in Jefferson County. In light of that opinion, the County had authority to enter into the applicable collective bargaining agreement, which is valid and enforceable under the Act. In turn, the Act waives the County’s governmental immunity “to the extent necessary to enforce this chapter against [the County].” TEX. LOC. GOV’T CODE § 174.008. The court of appeals therefore erred in reversing the trial court’s denial of the County’s plea to the jurisdiction. In turn, because the court of appeals’ only asserted jurisdictional basis for vacating the trial court’s order granting declaratory and mandamus relief was the court of appeals’ erroneous determination that the order was void due to the County’s immunity, that portion of the judgment cannot stand. Accordingly, we grant the petition for review and, without hearing oral argument, TEX. R. APP. P. 59.1, we reverse the court of appeals’ judgment in part, vacate it in part, and remand the case to the trial court for further proceedings.