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UPDATE: Round two, El Paso downtown ballpark hearing in Austin

By Matthew Smith, Good Morning El Paso Weekend Anchor / Reporter
Published On: Feb 19 2013 09:48:12 AM CST
Updated On: Feb 19 2013 04:27:29 PM CST

ABC-7's Matthew Smith reports from Austin, TX.

AUSTIN, Texas -

Round two for a declaratory judgment has begun in Austin.

More than a dozen people have traveled to the 353rd District Court to argue the future of the site that currently holds City Hall.

Earlier this month, a similar hearing was put on hold because several members of the opposing side did not show up in court. Instead, former Mayor Ray Salazar and five others filed a motion in federal court trying to remove the case from a district court in Austin.

A U.S. District Judge has since ruled that the move was made as a delay tactic. He also levied a fine on the people, noting that delaying the case was a success, however he would make sure they paid the price for that success.

The hearing is currently under way.

Sulak previously consolidated multiple cases against the city. That move led to some of the confusion earlier this month.

Carl Starr and Salvador Gomez are fighting the city, however, they cite separate reasons. They told ABC-7 that they were not aware the other group against the destruction of City Hall intended to delay the previous hearing.

On Tuesday it appeared the two sides continue to work separately. Starr told the Judge he would need two hours to put on his portion of the case, while Jesus Ochoa Jr. and Salazar said their portion would take an addition 1-1/2 hours as it was a separate argument.

The city sought this hearing to allow throw out potential lawsuits. Declaratory judgment hearings are held in Texas to disallow multiple lawsuits of the same nature to slow down the system. Whether Sulak will allow for a judgment is unknown, prior to Tuesday's hearing he said he could make a ruling, leave cases to continue in court or seperate the cases and allow them to continue separately.

The City of El Paso has already begun arguing its case. The city's representation has told the judge they intend to show the court that it has made a contract with the voters through a previous venue project vote with El Pasoans.

El Paso is seeking a judgment that it has properly followed the law when it comes to issuing a venue project, that it has the right to issue bonds to fund the destruction of City Hall and subsequent building of a downtown ballpark, confirmation of contracts with Mountain Star Sports Group and to deny the right of the groups opposing the destruction of City Hall to "re-vote" on the location of the proposed ballpark.

Sulak has said he will need to listen to arguments to determine whether he has the authority to offer such a decision, "It seems to me the first things would be within the parameters the latter, though, causes me a little pause."

Carl Starr and Salvador Gomez will argue their case after the city has finished. They declined to offer an opening statement. Ochoa and Salazar similarly have said they will wait.

Ochoa did raise questions, telling the Judge he demanded a jury trial. The Judge determined that the proper paperwork had not been filed, an issue Ochoa admitted was his own fault citing poor health as the reason.

The case is expected to take between 6 and 8 hours based on the words of both sides in court.

For live updates, follow reporter Matthew Smith on Twitter. He is giving live updates via Twitter at @MattSmithABC7. 

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