Counting counties

The high-profile mandamus case of In re: Paxton provides a general reminder about geographic bounds on Texas trial courts: “Jurisdiction over the cases vested immediately in the Harris County district courts when respondent signed the transfer order. The Texas Constitution does not allow the 416th Judicial District Court to sit outside of the Collin County seat, McKinney, absent express statutory authority. Tex. Const. art. V, § 7. The only authority by which this may occur is [Code of Criminal Procedure] article 31.09, which requires consent of the parties. Thus, absent effective application of article 31.09, respondent may not continue to preside over the cases or utilize the services of the court reporter, court coordinator, or clerk of the court of original venue. Relator has unequivocally stated that he did not consent to respondent continuing to preside over the cases or otherwise acting in accordance with article 31.09, and no written consent appears in our record. Accordingly, under the plain language of the statute, respondent is without authority to continue to preside over the cases and is also without authority to issue orders or directives maintaining the case files in Collin County. Consequently, all orders issued by respondent after he signed the April 11, 2017 transfer order are void.” No. 05-17-00507-CV (May 30, 2017).

Mandatory venue for injunctions: what’s your primary purpose?

Alphabet Soup

In In re FPWP GP LLC, et al. (January 25, 2017), the Dallas Court of Appeals conditionally granted a writ of mandamus for the district court’s failure to transfer venue under the mandatory venue provision of Section 65.023 of the Civil Practice & Remedies Code, which provides that “a writ of injunction against a party who is a resident of this state shall be tried in … the county in which the party is domiciled.” Courts have struggled at times to apply Section 65.023 because it does not apply to all suits seeking an injunction, but instead only to suits in which the relief requested is “purely or primarily injunctive.” So, if the primary form of relief is something else, e.g. damages, then the mandatory venue provision does not apply. The opinion gave examples of the exception, such as when injunctive relief is simply to maintain the status quo pending litigation or when there is no request for a permanent injunction. But in the case at hand, the plaintiff sought only a declaratory judgment that was effectively a mirror image of the permanent injunctive relief requested. Holding the injunction “was a means to the same end” as the declaratory judgment, the Court held that the primary purpose of the lawsuit was injunctive and that transfer to the county of domicile of the defendants was mandatory under Section 65.023.

In re FPWP GP LLC, et al. (January 25, 2017)

No mandamus in dispute about “dominant” jurisdiction — UPDATED

fort apache posterIn the mandamus case of In re Fort Apache Energy Inc., the relators sought relief from a trial setting in Dallas County, alleging that it interfered with the dominant jurisdiction (and slightly later trial setting) of the Kendall County Court.  No. 05-15-00159-CV (Dec. 16, 2015).  The Dallas Court of Appeals denied the petition, finding that the setting did not “amount[] to the kind of direct interference . . . that warrants mandamus relief under currently governing law.”  (citing, inter aliaAbor v. Black, 695 S.W.2d 564, 566 (Tex. 1985) (orig. proceeding).  In a classic disagreement about the scope and role of mandamus proceedings, a dissent would grant relief, arguing that “refusal to correct the trial court’s clear abuse of discretion by mandamus presents a strong likelihood of wasted public and private resources alike.”  The Texas Supreme Court has since accepted a mandamus petition in, and set oral argument for, a similar case, also from Dallas.