TX Commissioner Staples files brief on private property rights

TX Commissioner Staples files brief on private property rights
Texas Department of Agriculture
Wednesday, August 28, 2013 - 10:21am

As an advocate for Texas landowners, Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples has filed an amicus brief encouraging the Supreme Court of Texas to uphold current state laws protecting private property rights. The brief supports the pending petition filed by Philip Boerjan and Mestena Operating, among others, involving a 2007 automobile accident that occurred on a private ranch in Brooks County. The driver of the vehicle involved in the accident was smuggling several illegal immigrants, whose relatives later filed suit against the Texas landowner for the loss of their family members.

“Private landowners cannot be held liable for a trespasser’s self-inflicted injuries while they are illegally smuggling people or drugs across private land,” Commissioner Staples said. “The State of Texas must protect policies that enable landowners to secure their land from trespassers and illegal activity without fear of retribution by criminals. This commitment to private property owners’ rights has deep roots in Texas, and I encourage the court to reaffirm the principals of private property ownership that is the cornerstone of our state’s economy. The alternative puts a question mark on the future growth of our state.”

Below is an excerpt from the amicus brief followed by a link to the full brief.

The use of private land for drug and human smuggling is an ever-present and unresolved dilemma of paramount importance to the State of Texas and South Texas landowners. Many landowners fear for their safety and the safety of their families. The Court of Appeals’ opinion is based on faulty legal analysis and is contrary to efforts to ensure property owners have the right to protect their property from trespassers.

Furthermore, it seems counterintuitive for Texas law to allow landowners to use force where necessary to eject trespassers from their property but make a landowner liable for injuries that might occur to a trespasser while the landowner is simply watching and overseeing the trespasser leave the property.

The law should protect the interests of private landowners above those of participants in illegal drug trafficking, human smuggling, or any other illegal activity.

Click here to read the full text of the brief.

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