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Home » 2023-07-12 Responses to OK Supreme Court Legal Questions

2023-07-12 Responses to OK Supreme Court Legal Questions

PIKE OFF OTA and our freeway fighting friends have been working hard in the legal arena these past few weeks! Thank you to all who donated to help pay our legal fees. We would love to see more of our community, supporters, and allies donate so we can keep up the important fight!

Three citizen and municipality (protestant) replies were submitted this week to the Oklahoma State Supreme Court (Case #120,619). These 15-page legal briefs are in reply to the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority’s (OTA) (petitioner) Response to the Court’s order of May 30, 2023 (show cause). This show cause asked the OTA to explain how the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s (BoR) denial of OTA’s application to cross federal fee title lands would affect OTA’s statutory authority to construct the South Extension.

City of Norman

The first response to hit the OSCN system was filed by the City of Norman. Click here to read the entire PDF -> 2023-07-12 – City of Norman’s Reply

OTA's argument is identical to the reasoning employed by Humpty Dumpty. In Chapter 6 of Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass, after Alice protested that the word "glory" does not mean "a nice knock-down argument," Humpty Dumpty responded: "'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean--neither more nor less.'" Only in that manner-the words of Section 1705(e)(28) mean whatever OTA chooses them to mean - can OTA twist the last phrase of the section, describing a roadway from Tuttle to Norman, into specific authorization of a roadway from Purcell to Norman. No matter how OTA tweaks its argument, it cannot get around the fact that it lacks Legislative authorization to construct the Purcell-to-Norman "South Extension."
Fig 1. Excerpt from the City of Norman’s Reply Brief

Our favorite lines from this brief are:

“unlike Humpty Dumpty, OTA cannot make the words of a statute mean what OTA wants them to mean”

“OTA has become like Frankenstein’s monster. It has declared its absolute independence and asserts it is no longer subject to its creator’s mandates.”

The argument here is that the OTA is completely making up the authorization statute for the Southern Extension.

Attorney Dowling

The second brief was filed by Attorney Dowling on behalf of protestants John and Jo McKay. Click here to read the entire PDF -> 2023-07-12 – Dowling Reply

The notice given for this proceeding was insufficient to comply with 69 O.S. 1718. OTA was required by statute to provide notice of this proceeding to "inform all persons interested that they may file protests against the issuance of the bonds". 69 O.S. 1718. It is not disputed that OTA published a notice in a qualifying newspaper. The question is, how much can the routes change after that notice was published and still give notice to all interested persons?
Fig 2. Excerpt from Attorney Dowling’s Reply Brief

Ms. Dowling’s arguments question the ability of the OTA to build these roadways without BoR permission while still complying with statutory requirements. She debates how much the routes can change and still comply with OTA’s statutory requirement to give notice to impacted citizenry. Finally her reply explains that the expiration of bond council conditional approval does not moot a bond validation proceeding.

The fact that this bond validation was sought prior to necessary permissions being attained and before the routes were sufficiently drawn to insure the people notified were actually the people to be impacted are important points. We have insisted from Day 1 that the OTA engages in backward engineering processes and that the statutes need to be changed to force them to perform transportation planning correctly. This is an excellent example of why legislation needs to be changed.

Pike Off OTA

The third brief was filed by PIKE OFF OTA’s attorney Mr. Norman. Click here to read the entire PDF -> 2023-07-12 – Rob Norman’s Reply

The problems with the new alignments in the OTA's ACCESS Oklahoma plan continue to mount. In light of the OTA's federal land problems, we now have no idea where these routes may end up having to go, even if they were legislatively authorized. Of course, therein lies the rub. The Turnpike Enabling Act does not allow the OTA to build these routes. The OTA is headed down a road of violating due process and evading mandatory oversigh, and these are good enough reasons for denying the OTA's bond validation petition. In the final analysis, however, it is simply unlawful for the OTA to issue bonds for or build any of these new turnpikes. The Pike Off OTA Protestants therefore respectfully request that this Court deny the OTA's request for validation of bonds for the East-West Connector, the Tri-City Connector, and the South Extension turnpikes.
Figure 3. Excerpt from Attorney Norman’s Reply Brief.

The PIKE OFF OTA reply brief argues that the OTA cannot lawfully build ANY of the three new alignments in the ACCESS Oklahoma program regardless of ANY route adjustments made to avoid federal lands.

  • The OTA cannot lawfully build the South Extension because there is no location authorization for it anywhere in 69 O.S. Section 1705(e).
  • The OTA cannot lawfully build the East-West Connector because of the one bond issue, four turnpike bundling mandate of Section 1705(f).
  • Validating bonds for any new alignments requiring unknown, significant future route revisions would violate due process meaning that citizens who were outside the original route corridors may find themselves affected by a new route after the fact without being duly notified or without a chance to contest. 
  • The OTA is attempting to unlawfully evade oversight with its purposeful decision to let the council of bond oversight’s conditional approval expire.

All three briefs are on fire and well-prepared.  There is no known timeline for when the Supreme Court will enter its decision, but please sign up for our newsletter and follow our Facebook page to stay informed!