Appeal from the 310th District Court Harris County, Texas
Trial Court Cause No. 2015-34264
consists of Justices Boyce, Busby, and Wise.
William J. Boyce Justice
Eric Parker challenges the trial court's dismissal of his
divorce suit. The trial court dismissed the suit for want of
prosecution when appellant, an inmate, failed to announce
ready for trial. Appellant contends that the trial court
effectively denied him access to the legal system. Because
the trial court permitted appellant to appear by telephone
but he failed to do so, we affirm.
filed for divorce from his wife, Brigette Parker,
June 2015. Appellant was incarcerated and proceeding pro
se during the pendency of both the underlying suit and
with his original petition for divorce, appellant filed a
"Motion for Bench Warrant or in the Alternative, Motion
to Proceed by Conference Call, Affidavit, or any other
Effective Means." In his motion, appellant requested a
bench warrant allowing him to personally appear for trial. In
the event the trial court denied his request for a bench
warrant, appellant requested that the trial court "allow
him to proceed by conference call, affidavit, or other
trial court set the case for trial or dismissal on December
11, 2015, and provided notice to appellant. The trial court
determined that appellant's personal appearance was not
necessary and issued an order in October 2015 denying
appellant's request for a bench warrant but allowing
appellant to participate in the proceedings by telephonic
trial court dismissed appellant's case for want of
prosecution on December 11, 2015. The order of dismissal
states that the case was dismissed because there was no
announcement by attorneys or parties and because there had
been no service of process on Brigette.
Appellant appeals the dismissal.
courts have inherent power to dismiss cases for want of
prosecution, and express authority to do so under Texas Rule
of Civil Procedure 165a. See Tex. R. Civ. P. 165a;
Alexander v. Lynda's Boutique, 134 S.W.3d 845,
850 (Tex. 2004). A trial court may dismiss under Rule 165a on
"failure of any party seeking affirmative relief to
appear for any hearing or trial of which the party had
notice." Tex.R.Civ.P. 165a. Likewise, the trial court
has inherent power to dismiss independently of the rules of
procedure when a plaintiff fails to prosecute his case with
due diligence. Villarreal v. San Antonio Truck &
Equip., 994 S.W.2d 628, 630 (Tex. 1999). We review a
dismissal for want of prosecution for an abuse of discretion.
In re Marriage of Bolton, 256 S.W.3d 832, 833 (Tex.
App.-Dallas 2008, no pet.).
inmate may not be denied access to the courts, but also has
no absolute right to appear in person in every court
proceeding. In re Z.L.T., 124 S.W.3d 163, 165 (Tex.
2003); Risley v. Alvarez, No. 14-10-00015-CV, 2011
WL 397948, at *6 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] Feb. 8,
2011, pet. denied) (mem. op.). If the trial court determines
that the inmate's personal appearance is not warranted,
then the trial court should allow the inmate to proceed by
affidavit, deposition, telephone, or other effective means.
In re R.C.R., 230 S.W.3d 423, 426 (Tex. App.-Fort
Worth 2007, no pet.); Boulden v. Boulden, 133 S.W.3d
884, 886-87 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2004, no pet.).
does not challenge the trial court's denial of his
request for a bench warrant. Instead, appellant contends that
access by teleconference was insufficient and violated his
due process rights because appellant does not have
independent access to a telephone and is "wholly
depend[ent] on the trial court's coordinator and [the