El Paso

City: Grossman asks court to dismiss contempt of court case related to arena project

EL PASO, Texas - The City of El Paso announced Tuesday historian Dr. Max Grossman is asking the Second Court of Appeals to dismiss a case related to the Multipurpose Performing Arts and Entertainment Center the City wants to build in the Union Plaza area downtown. 

The City said Grossman's lawyers, in a motion filed Monday, stated they are withdrawing the complaint and asking the case be dismissed.

According to the City, the motion to dismiss states, "Dr. Grossman now stipulates the evidence produced during discovery will likely not show that officials with decision making authority at the City intentionally took any action (or failed to take action) to violate the Order of the 8th Court of Appeals."

"The City, in the interest of saving taxpayer funds, recently agreed to participate in mediation related to this legal matter," Mayor Dee Margo said in a news release, "The request to dismiss this case shows the City did act in full compliance of court orders." 

The case involved allegations the City did not comply with a court order issued by the Eighth Court of Appeals regarding the demolition of buildings within the proposed arena project footprint. 

Grossman filed a motion for emergency relief September 11, 2017. After it was granted, the City was ordered to cease all efforts to demolish seven buildings in the Duranguito neighborhood.

The morning of September 12, 2017, demolition crews hired by the private property owners damaged several buildings in the neighborhood, despite the court order. The City agreed to buy some of the properties damaged by demolition crews, but not until the buildings are demolished. The City said the order to stop the demolition was not directed to the property owners and the City had to pass the court's instruction along to the owners.

At the time, Grossman, the man leading the effort to protect the Duranguito neighborhood from demolition, argued the City should still be held liable. "The bottom line is the City controls the properties and that is the legal standard and that is what we've briefed to the courts," said Grossman.
On October 23, 2017, the Eight District Court of Appeals recused itself from the contempt of court hearing involving the City and Grossman. The Order of Recusal states the court learned one of its employees, a staff attorney, "violated the Code of Judicial Conduct as well as the Court's policy manual, by manifesting bias or prejudice"  against the City of El Paso in the pending case. 

The case was then transferred to the Second Court of Appeals, where the motion to dismiss was filed Monday. 

The Second Court of Appeals said the dismissal of the contempt of court case "is not intended to, nor should it have any effect, on the validity and continuation of the injunction" against demolition entered on September 12, 2017. 

Grossman still has other legal cases pending against the City. The demolition of the seven properties in question is on hold until the resolution of the remaining cases. 

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