Almanac

News - September 29, 2010

Rail authority chalks up legal win

by Sandy Brundage

Even as news spread of a fresh lawsuit against high-speed rail, the beleaguered rail authority announced the dismissal of a different suit.

Filed in April by Menlo Park residents Morris Brown and attorney Mike Brady, the lawsuit asked the court to rule on how the California High-Speed Rail Authority can legally use $9.95 billion in bond funds.

The suit alleged that construction could not legally begin until the rail authority had enough money to finish what it started. According to court filings, the plaintiffs stated that since the project is "severely under-funded," starting construction would only waste the money.

The rail authority asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit in June, according to spokeswoman Rachel Wall, believing that it did not actually allege illegal conduct.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Kevin Culhane sided with the rail authority on Sept. 21, calling the plaintiffs' claim "speculative" in his ruling.

"Although plaintiffs contend waste is imminent, the manner in which they have framed the requested relief reveals that plaintiffs are seeking an advisory opinion rather than an order that imminent waste be halted," the ruling stated.

Ms. Wall said that lawsuits over a massive infrastructure project like high-speed rail don't come as a surprise.

"We remain committed to working with the people in the communities statewide to help design the best project possible for the state," she said.

This was the second pro bono lawsuit Mr. Brady had filed against the rail agency, and the second dismissal.

The first suit, filed last year on behalf of Menlo Park City Council candidate Russ Peterson, asked the court to forbid the agency from starting work on the Peninsula segment without the consent of Union Pacific, which has ownership rights over the Caltrain corridor. That suit was dismissed in June.

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