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Judge assigned to industry lawsuit against fracking ban

Profile image for By Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe
By Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe

An administrative judge has assigned the industry’s lawsuit against Denton’s ban on hydraulic fracturing to Denton District Judge Sherry Shipman, court records show.

The Texas Oil and Gas Association’s lawsuit challenging the ban on constitutional grounds was originally assigned to the 431st District Court. Denton District Judge Jonathan Bailey recused himself from presiding over the case in mid-December, but gave no reason for his actions.

Shipman presides over the 16th District Court.

Denton voters overwhelmingly approved the ban in the November election. Voter turnout was heavy for the citizen-driven proposition that saw nearly 59 percent favor the ban, which officially went into effect Dec. 2.

Shipman was first elected to the court in 2012 and began a four-year term in January 2013. Both the 16th and 431st courts try general jurisdiction cases, including family, civil and criminal cases. Prior to her election, Shipman practiced family law and tried both civil and criminal cases for 13 years.

Shipman’s husband, Lawrence Dee Shipman, who formerly presided over the 211th District Court, ruled against the city of Denton when it first tried to enforce its new, greater setback rules with EagleRidge Energy in 2013. L. Dee Shipman denied the city a temporary restraining order after EagleRidge claimed it held valid permits issued years before by the city’s fire department.

The city dropped its lawsuit a week later, touching off the controversy that eventually led to the ban — the first of its kind in Texas.

On personal financial statements filed with the Texas Ethics Commission in 2014, Sherry Shipman declared one-eighth mineral interest in 320 acres of land in Lynn County. Lynn County is south of Lubbock County in western Texas.

Current officeholders must update their personal financial statements with the commission by the end of the month.

Shipman declined to comment on the financial information and the case through her court assistant, who said that the judge doesn’t comment on pending cases.

Except for the reassignment, no hearings have been scheduled in the industry’s case against the ban. In the state’s lawsuit against the ban, a change of venue hearing has been scheduled for Feb. 18 in Travis County.

The Texas General Land Office, through then-Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, also sued to block Denton’s ban.

City attorneys filed a motion asking the 53rd District Court to move the case to Denton County, arguing that the land office’s claims are limited to Denton County.

PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @phwolfeDRC.