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City wins ballpark motion, prepares to head back to Austin; federal judge fines plaintiffs for delaying trial

By Matthew Smith, Good Morning El Paso Weekend Anchor / Reporter
Published On: Feb 07 2013 04:15:00 PM CST
Updated On: Jan 14 2014 10:15:39 PM CST

ABC-7s Matthew Smith reports.

El Paso, TEXAS -

The city of El Paso has won a motion in federal court allowing them to head back to Austin, and the men who delayed the previous Austin trial are paying for it.

Earlier this week the city of El Paso got a last-minute surprise moments before a trial in Austin's 353rd District Court pertaining to the downtown ballpark.

In January a judge allowed the city of El Paso to consolidate several lawsuits that sought to delay the destruction of City Hall to make way for El Paso's new Triple-A baseball park, but when it came time for a declaratory judgement hearing several plaintiffs from one of those lawsuits didn't show up.

Instead they sent a document showing they'd filed for the removal of the case from state court, in an attempt to get the case heard in El Paso's Federal Western District Court.

The move surprised all who had traveled more than eight hours to take part in the trial, even frustrating some of the lawyers involved.

Now, a federal judge has weighed in issuing a scathing response, and fining the people attached to the lawsuit.

U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks said the move didn't meet elementary requirements of federal jurisdiction, stating, "The removal of this case was obviously a sham designed solely to delay the trial scheduled for February 4, 2013."

Sparks also wrote that former Mayor Ray Salazar and the others tied to the lawsuit had no right to request a removal from the state court.

According to Sparks, the move would require the consent of all parties, something members of the consolidated lawsuits admitted to ABC-7 they had not done.

Carl Starr, one of the members of the consolidated lawsuit, said in court that he hadn't consented. According to the judge's ruling, the attorney general had not signed off on the move either.

The latest news means the case will head back to district court in Austin.

Salazar, his attorney and five others named in the motion filed in federal court, are now on the hook for $5,000 in fines for delaying a case, with the judge stating that they succeeded in delaying the case, but the fine would be their price paid for that success.

Lowell Denton, an attorney representing the city of El Paso in the case, told ABC-7 that he believed the case could take place as early as Feb. 19th. However, he couldn't say the date was a certainty at this point.
 

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