A dispute arose in Dallas among Theilert Aircraft, a German maker of aircraft engine parts; Bruno Kübler, its “insolvency adminstrator” under German law; Superior Air Parts, a former customer of Theilert; and Technify Motors, the purchaser of Theilert’s assets in the Germany insolvency proceeding. Kübler sought a writ of mandamus to compel enforcement of a forum selection clause in the Theilert-Technify sales agreement (“This Agreement is subject to the laws of the Federal Republic of Germany. To the extent legally permitted, exclusive place of jurisdiction is the seat of the Insolvency Debtor [in Germany].”) The Fifth Court agreed, finding that (1) the “extent legally permitted” language did not make the clause permissive instead of mandatory, (2) the claims between Technify and Kübler arose from the sales agreement, and (3) the potential for parallel litigation between Superior and Technify in Dallas did not overcome the policy in favor of enforcing a valid, relevant forum provision. In re: Kübler, No. 05-16-01443-CV (Aug. 4, 2017). (The Court also addressed and rejected a theoretical issue about the enforceability of a similar clause under German law, finding it irrelevant under the current framework used in Texas courts.)
The appellant in In the Interest of BTG, acknowledging that an order denying the expungement of a lis pendens is not ordinarily appealable, attempted to rely on the Fifth Court’s standard language denying an earlier writ of mandamus. He contended that it granted him an appeal right by agreeing that he had an adequate remedy by direct appeal. ” Appellant, however, misstates our conclusion. In denying the petition, we stated he had ‘not shown he is entitled to the relief requested,’ a burden requiring he show not only that he has no adequate appellate remedy but also that the trial court clearly abused its discretion.” No. 05-17-00465-CV (July 13, 2017) (mem. op.)
The Texas Supreme Court’s newfound enthusiasm for mandamus review of orders granting motions for new trial after a jury trial (see, e.g., In re: United Scaffolding, 377 S.W.3d 685 (Tex. 2012)) has not been embraced by the courts of appeal (including Dallas) to orders setting aside a default judgment, or orders granting a new trial following a bench trial. A thorough summary of the Fifth Court’s opinions on those subjects appears in In re: Walker, No. 05-17-00404-CV (May 23, 2017) (mem. op.)
The case of In re Bolt reminds when a party can seek mandamus relief to obtain a ruling on a motion. On the one hand, because “[m]andamus is appropriate to compel the performance of a ministerial duty,” it follows that “[a] trial jduge must consider and rule on a motion brought to the court’s attention within a reasonable amount of time, and a writ of mandamus may be issued to compel the trial court to rule in such instances.” But, as is required in other contexts where mandamus may be appropriate, the matter must be presented to the trial court: “To be properly filed and timely presented, a motion must be presentedd to a trial court at a time when the court has authority to act on the motion. The mere filing of a motion with the trial court clerk does not equate to a request that the trial court rule on the motion.” No. 05-17-00495-CV (May 22, 2017) (mem. op.)
The recent memorandum opinion in In re NCH Corp reminds of two basic points about mandamus practice.
- In a mandamus situation arising from the threatened disclosure of trade secrets: “No adequate appellate remedy exists if a trial court orders a party to produce privileged trade secrets absent a showing of necessity. In re Bass, 113 S.W.3d 735, 745 (Tex. 2003) (orig. proceeding) (citing In re Cont’l Gen. Tire, Inc., 979 S.W.2d 609, 615 (Tex. 1998) (orig. proceeding)). Further, a trial court abuses its discretion when it erroneously compels production of trade secrets without a showing that the information is ‘material and necessary.’ Id. at 738, 743.”
- The Fifth Court is using slightly revised “standard” language when denying mandamus relief in a short opinion: “To be entitled to mandamus relief, a relator must show both that the trial court has clearly abused its discretion and that relator has no adequate appellate remedy. In re Prudential Ins. Co., 148 S.W.3d 124, 135–36 (Tex. 2004) (orig. proceeding). . . . Based on the record before us, we conclude relator has not shown it is entitled to the relief requested. Accordingly, we DENY relator’s petition for writ of mandamus. See Tex. R. App. P. 52.8(a) (the court must deny the petition if the court determines relator is not entitled to the relief sought).
No. 05-17-00360-CV (Apr. 25, 2017) (mem. op.)
A mandamus petition challenged an order allowing a “court-supervised wrinding up” of an LLC that owned over 700 acres of undeveloped land in Denton County. As to the procedural posture of the case, the Fifth Court obseved: “[M]andamus relief is proper to the extent the winding-up order permits execution before the entry of a final, appealable judgment.” On the merits, the court concluded that this order had that effect, “because if SRE is wound up and the property sold in the interim, [Petitioner]’s property rights and purported right to continue the business will be lost forever.” In re Spiritas, No. 05-16-00791-CV (Apr. 6, 2017) (mem. op.)
Yes, it arose in the unusual procedural posture of a Rule 736 home equity loan foreclosure, and no, it is not the recommended practice. That said, the relators in the case of In re: Priester successfully convinced the Fifth Court to reverse direction and, on rehearing, grant a writ of mandamus in their favor “[i]n light of the more developed record and clarified arguments . . . .” No. 05-16-00965-CV (Nov. 21, 2016) (mem. op.)
The relator in the case of In re: Schindler Elevator complained that the trial court “refused to issue findings of fact and conclusions of law explaining the court’s reasoning for denying relator’s motion for leave to designate responsible third parties.” The Fifth Court found no abuse of discretion, noting that the RTP proceeding was not a “trial” within the meaning of the applicable rule, and that the relator had a remedy by direct appeal. No. 05-16-01172-CV (Oct. 10, 2016) (mem. op.)
A basic point, but one that bears frequent repetition, and the Court of Criminal Appeals concurrence ultimately cited by the Fifth Court is a quick and worthwhile read.: “As the party seeking relief, the relator has the burden of providing the Court with a sufficient record to establish his right to mandamus relief.” In re: Johnson, No. 05-16-01094-CV (Sept. 27, 2016) (mem. op.) (citing In re: Jones, No. 05-16- 00230-CV, 2016 WL 836835 (Tex. App.—Dallas March 4, 2016, orig. proceeding) (mem. op.) (citing Lizcano v. Chatham, 416 S.W.3d 862, 863 (Tex. Crim. App. 2011) (orig. proceeding) (Alcala, J. concurring))).
In its order denying a mandamus petition in the case of In re: Adelphi Group, the Fifth Court reminds: “Although parties may expend time and money if they are ordered to arbitration improperly, delay and expense—standing alone—will not render the final appeal inadequate. Further, mandamus as a remedy for review of orders compelling arbitration should be limited to the comparatively rare cases where the legislature has through statute expressed a public policy that overrides the public policy favoring arbitration.” No. 05-16-01060-CV (Sept. 22, 2016) (mem. op.)