More than four years after his first election, Austin City Council Member Greg Casar can put that race behind him. The Texas Supreme Court today sided with the District 4 council member after his opponent, Laura Pressley, contested his victory in 2014. The court did, however, find her challenge wasn't frivolous.
Neither Pressley nor Casar garnered enough votes to win the seat outright in November 2014. Casar then defeated Pressley in a runoff by 1,291 votes. Pressley challenged that win in a years-long legal fight that was put to rest by the state's high court today.
"I never would have imagined ... that a candidate who lost 65-35 would have gone to such lengths for over four years to keep this lawsuit going," Casar told KUT.
While the Texas Supreme Court sided with Casar, it also threw out the initial trial court's order for Pressley and her attorney, David Rogers, to pay $90,000 in sanctions and nearly $8,000 for Casar's legal fees – a decision that was affirmed by the state's Third Court of Appeals.
"Her evidence might not have been strong enough to win on the merits, but she had at least some evidence and legal basis for her claims," the Texas Supreme Court's ruling said. "For that reason, the trial court abused its discretion in sanctioning Pressley and Rogers for making these non-frivolous arguments, and the court of appeals erred in affirming the sanctions."
Casar says he's disappointed the court didn't affirm the sanctions, as it may discourage future lawsuits challenging elections.
"While I wish that the court had issued a sanction like the other courts had issued sanctions in order to disincentivize people from having lawsuits like these go on and on and on, that's never what the court case has been about," he said.
KUT reached out to Laura Pressley for comment on the ruling, but has not yet receieved a response.
Pressley first called for a recount in the race and then filed a lawsuit after that recount, alleging irregularities and even criminal violations of state law by the Travis County Clerk during the recount process.
A trial court sided with Casar, throwing out Pressley's claims and ruling that she and Rogers pay a sanctions and Casar's legal fees.
Pressley and Rogers appealed that ruling to the Texas' Third Court of Criminal Appeals, which, again, sided with Casar. She appealed that decision, and in the interim, Casar was re-elected to the Austin City Council in 2016 with 65 percent of the votes in District 4.
Correction: A previous version of this post said the court found Pressley's lawsuit wasn't completely without merit. The court did find it was without merit, but ruled it wasn't frivolous.