State Supreme Court deflects high-speed rail dispute to appeals court

The Fresno BeeJanuary 29, 2014 

An artist's rendition of California's high-speed rail.

PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY SW PARRA — The Fresno Bee

The state Supreme Court on Wednesday deflected a request by Gov. Jerry Brown and the California High-Speed Rail Authority to intervene in the Kings County-spawned legal challenge over the rail project's financing.

The high court's justices voted instead to refer the state's petition to the Third District Court of Appeals in Sacramento, directing the appellate court to "expedite its consideration of this matter."

H.D. Palmer, spokesman for the Department of Finance, said the high court's ruling essentially accomplishes one of the state's key goals.

"The state wanted the court to hear this case quickly. Today, the Supreme Court effectively granted that request by directing the Court of Appeal to consider our case in an expedited fashion."

The state Attorney General's Office, representing Brown and the Rail Authority, took the unusual step Friday of directly petitioning the Supreme Court to review November decisions issued by Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny in a pair of cases.

Earlier this month, in his proposed 2014-15 budget, Brown called for about $250 million in cap-and-trade money from the state's carbon emissions-reduction program be allocated to the rail agency — money that would be applied toward matching the federal money.

In the petition to the Supreme Court, the governor and the Rail Authority said that through his decisions forcing a re-do of the authority's financing plan and rejecting its bid for bond validation, Kenny's "approach to these issues cripples government's ability to function."

The Supreme Court gave project opponents until Monday to file court documents with the appeals court. The Rail Authority and the Brown administration must submit their replies to the opposition by Feb. 10.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6319, tsheehan@fresnobee.com or on Twitter @tsheehan.

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