Saturday, June 13, 2009
The Ultimate Eminent Domain
From Freedoms Phoenix
Appeals court says no to George W. Bush deposition
By JEFF CARLTON, Associated Press Writer
Friday, June 12, 2009
(06-12) 17:04 PDT DALLAS (AP) --
A Texas appeals court on Friday overturned a ruling that would have put former President George W. Bush under oath in a dispute involving his presidential library.
A three-judge panel of the 5th District Court of Appeals ruled that Bush does not have to submit to a deposition from a former condo owner suing Southern Methodist University, the future site of the presidential library.
Gary Vodicka, who was forced out of his condominium by SMU to make way for the library, contends the university coveted the property and lied about its intentions.
A Texas district judge had ordered the former president to appear at a deposition in Vodicka's lawsuit. The order for compelling Bush's deposition was historic: No sitting or former president ever has been forced to testify in a state court proceeding.
The appeals court acknowledged that taking a deposition from a former or sitting president is an "extraordinarily rare event," and found the case did not meet the standard associated with presidential testimony. Its ruling overturning the district judge's order states that "it appears Vodicka himself is unclear as to why he needs the deposition of President Bush."
Vodicka, 49, said he will ask the appeals court to reconsider and will also appeal to the state Supreme Court. The ruling Friday was "all about Bush and his stature" and not about the law, he said.
"I don't care whether he is the president, the former president or a garbage collector," said Vodicka, a lawyer who is representing himself in the lawsuit. "He ... participated in the most significant discussions regarding where his library will be located."
John Martin, one of Bush's attorneys, said he was pleased with the ruling.
Vodicka's lawsuit alleges that SMU acquired nearly all the 350 units in University Gardens, a run-down, 40-year-old condominium complex across the street from the university, and then let it fall into disrepair so it could be torn down. He claims the school acquired the condo property with the library project in mind.
The school bulldozed the condos in 2006. The land upon which the condos once sat will be part of Bush's library grounds. Officials hope to break ground on the project next year and open it in 2013.
SMU attorneys say Bush was not involved in the university's plans to acquire the condo property.
Vodicka turned down $1 million to drop the case, according to SMU attorney Mark Lanier, who said the lawsuit is an attempt to get more money out of the university. Vodicka said he wants his property back.