Opinions Released December 15, 2016

In this weekly blog, the Law Offices of Brandy Wingate Voss, PLLC will summarize recent decisions from the Thirteenth Court of Appeals and provide links to decisions on the court’s website.

Ex Parte Dimas Salas Rodriguez, No. 13-15-00347-CR (Memorandum Opinion by Chief Justice Valdez; Panel Members: Justices Rodriguez and Benavides)

In this interlocutory appeal from a denied pretrial writ of habeas corpus, the Thirteenth Court of Appeals examined whether a defendant may use the writ to assert a collateral estoppel argument against the State.

Dimas Salas Rodriguez was arrested for driving while intoxicated (“DWI”), and had cocaine in his possession at the time of the arrest. Initially, Rodriguez was charged with both DWI and possession of cocaine with the intent to deliver.

The State later dropped the DWI charge, prompting Rodriguez to file a motion to suppress the cocaine. Rodriguez then filed a pretrial writ of habeas corpus. Rodriguez argued that the State’s dismissal of his DWI charge constituted an admission that there was no probable cause to support Rodriguez’s arrest, and claimed that the State was estopped from asserting otherwise. The trial court denied the writ and Rodriguez appealed.

Held: The trial court properly denied Rodriguez’s pretrial writ because his collateral estoppel claim was not cognizable via a writ of habeas corpus.

Without reaching the merits of Rodriguez’s appeal, the Thirteenth Court examined whether the claim Rodriguez asserted would support a pretrial writ of habeas corpus. The court characterized Rodriguez’s argument as a claim in collateral estoppel. Collateral estoppel can only be asserted in a writ of habeas corpus if it is in connection with an assertion of double jeopardy under the United States Constitution. Since Rodriguez did not argue that his double jeopardy rights had been violated, the claim was not cognizable via a writ of habeas corpus. Rather, Rodriguez should raise the issue in a motion to suppress.

Read the Full Opinion Here

In the Matter of the Marriage of Sandra Ladean Hahn and Henry Adolph Hahn, No. 13-16-00544-CV (Memorandum Opinion Per Curiam; Panel Members: Chief Justice Valdez, Justice Benavides, and Justice Perkes)

In this tardy appeal from a divorce decree, the Thirteenth Court discusses the procedural requirements for a party to secure an extension of time for appeal when he does not receive timely notice of the judgment.

On June 22, 2016, a final divorce decree was entered terminating the marriage of Sandra Hahn and Henry Hahn. Henry Hahn filed a notice of appeal on September 22, 2016. The Clerk of the Thirteenth Court of Appeals responded with a letter, advising Hahn to correct the defect in his filing by providing a reasonable explanation of the delay in accordance with the Texas Rules of Appellate Procedure and Rules of Civil Procedure. Hahn simply responded that he did not receive notice of the divorce decree until September 22, 2016 because the decree was mailed to his brother’s address.

The Thirteenth Court of Appeals analyzed Hahn’s situation to determine if the court had jurisdiction over Hahn’s tardy appeal.

Held: Hahn failed to follow the procedures in Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 306a and Texas Rule of Appellate Procedure 4 regarding the extension of time for a party who did not receive notice of the judgment. Hahn’s appeal was thus untimely and was dismissed for want of jurisdiction.

Generally, under Texas Rule of Appellate Procedure 26.1, an appeal must be perfected within thirty days of the date the judgment is signed, unless a motion for new trial has not been filed. Here, no motion for new trial was filed. The appeal was thus due by July 22, 2016—thirty days after the June 22, 2016 judgment.

However, when a party to the judgment does not receive notice within twenty days of the date the judgment is signed, the appellate deadline will run from the date of notice, as long as such notice is received within ninety days of the judgment. To invoke this rule however, the appellant must meet the requirements set forth in Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 306a and Texas Rule of Appellate Procedure 4.2. For example, Rule 306a requires the appellant to offer evidence in the trial court showing the date of notice via a sworn motion. Rule 4.2 then requires the trial court to make findings in a written order regarding the date of notice. Here, Hahn simply asserted that he had not received notice of the judgment. Hahn provided no evidence nor sworn motion. Thus, Hahn did not effectively invoke Rules 4 and 306a. Consequently, his appeal was untimely and the Thirteenth Court of Appeals did not have jurisdiction.

Read the Full Opinion Here