Semicolons and disjunctive ands vs. propaganda, subterfuge, and fraud yesterday in Leesburg, GA, and evidentiary briefs will be received by the judge over the next 20 days.
After patiently listening to Spectra attorneys detail how a 1920s version of Georgia pipeline eminent domain law had a semicolon that they claimed separated “in the State of Georgia” from their pipeline, Judge Smith later remarked that the legislature passing a bill that removed the semicolon could be used to infer that they intended to remove the semicolon. Sabal Trail also tried to argue that the “and” in the same sentence was a disjunctive that similarly separated. The judge seemed more interested in the basic question: does Sabal Trail provide gas to customers within the State of Georgia?
The landowners’ attorney made it even more interesting, referring to Sabal Trail’s “propaganda” and getting the judge to entertain the possibility that Sabal Trail, at the behest of their “puppeteers” in Houston, had made the MGAG deal as a “subterfuge” to get around the “in the State of Georgia” legal requirement, which might even be called “fraud”.
The legal discussion also ranged to a 2006 Georgia constitutional amendment that may give local elected bodies eminent domain oversight, and to other eminent domain sections of Georgia code. However, it kept returning to this one paragraph with “in the State of Georgia”, O.C.G.A. 22-3-88:
Authority of persons constructing or operating gas pipelines or furnishing gas for heating, lighting, or power purposes to exercise power of eminent domain
The power of eminent domain may be exercised by persons who are or may be engaged in constructing or operating pipelines for the transportation or distribution of natural or artificial gas and by persons who are or may be engaged in furnishing natural or artificial gas for heating, lighting, or power purposes in the State of Georgia.
It became very clear what Sabal Trail would like the least: a jury trial. Second least: an evidentiary hearing.
The judge granted neither, but he did agree to 10 days for the landowners’ attorney to submit an evidentiary brief, followed by 10 days for Sabal Trail’s attorneys to do the same, after which the judge would decide. Other parties can submit amicus curiae briefs, as well.
Re: Case number 14CV208RS
Judge Rucker Smith
To: Cindy Clark
Civil Deputy Clerk
100 Leslie Highway
Leesburg, Georgia 31763
This is all according to my understanding from observing the hearing yesterday, and remember I am not a lawyer. However, my name did come up; see other post.