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In re Hughes

Court of Appeals of Texas, Thirteenth District, Corpus Christi-Edinburg

March 15, 2017


         On Petition for Writ of Mandamus.

          Before Justices Contreras, Benavides, and Longoria


          GINA M. BENAVIDES, Justice [1]

         Relator James Robert Hughes filed a pro se petition for writ of mandamus in the above causes on March 8, 2017, seeking to compel the trial court to rescind orders withdrawing funds from relator's inmate trust account. Relator contends that the orders regarding the withdrawals lacked due process because the trial court failed to give relator notice and an opportunity to respond and the orders allowing the withdrawals failed to comply with garnishment procedures. In this regard, relator's argument focuses on the fact that relator's judgments of conviction do not include the amount of the costs assessed against him.[2]

         Convicted defendants have constructive notice of mandatory court costs set by statute and the opportunity to object to the assessment of court costs. Cardenas v. State, 423 S.W.3d 396, 399 (Tex. Crim. App. 2014). Here, relator's complaints in this original proceeding raise issues that encompass both civil and criminal substantive law. The collection of costs and fees through withdrawal orders entered pursuant to Section 501.014(e) of the Texas Government Code is a civil law matter. Armstrong v. State, 340 S.W.3d 759, 766 (Tex. Crim. App. 2011); see Harrell v. State, 286 S.W.3d 315 (Tex. 2009); Johnson v. Tenth Jud. Dist. Ct. of Apps. at Waco, 280 S.W.3d 866 (Tex. Crim. App. 2008). Inmates are accorded constitutional due process when they receive notice of the withdrawal and an opportunity to contest the dollar amount and statutory basis of the withdrawal through filing a motion to rescind or modify the withdrawal order. Harrell, 286 S.W.3d at 321. Further, neither notice nor an opportunity to be heard need occur before the issuance of a withdrawal order. Id. In contrast, other matters pertaining to costs and fees, such as the assessment of the costs and the sufficiency of the evidence to support attorney fees, are criminal law issues. Armstrong, 340 S.W.3d at 766. And as a matter of substantive criminal law, court costs need neither be orally pronounced nor incorporated by reference in a judgment to be effective. Id. at 767; see Weir v. State, 278 S.W.3d 364, 367 (Tex. Crim. App. 2009).

         The gravamen of relator's claims relate to the constitutional due process of the withdrawal orders, and accordingly, we will apply a civil standard of review in this proceeding. To obtain relief by writ of mandamus in a civil case, a relator must establish that an underlying order is void or a clear abuse of discretion and that no adequate appellate remedy exists. In re Nationwide Ins. Co. of Am., 494 S.W.3d 708, 712 (Tex. 2016) (orig. proceeding); Walker v. Packer, 827 S.W.2d 833, 839-40 (Tex. 1992) (orig. proceeding).[3] The relator bears the burden of proving both of these requirements. In re H.E.B. Grocery Co., L.P., 492 S.W.3d 300, 302 (Tex. 2016) (orig. proceeding) (per curiam); Walker, 827 S.W.2d at 83-40.

         The Court, having examined and fully considered the matters raised in this original proceeding, the limited record provided, and the applicable law, is of the opinion that relator has failed to meet his burden to obtain mandamus relief. Accordingly, relator's petition for writ of mandamus in each of these causes is DENIED. See Tex. R. App. P. 52.8(a).



[1] See Tex. R. App. P. 52.8(d) ("When denying relief, the court may hand down an opinion but is not required to do so."); Tex.R.App.P. 47.4 (distinguishing opinions and memorandum opinions).

[2] These matters arise from trial court cause numbers 10-9-8456, 11-7-8647, and 12-7-8867 in the 24th District Court of Jackson County, Texas, and have been docketed in our Court respectively as original proceedings in cause numbers 13-17-00130-CV, 13-17-00131-CV, and 13-17-00132-CV. This Court previously denied a similar petition for writ of mandamus filed by relator. See In re Hughes, Nos. 13-16-00676-CR, 13-16-00677-CR, & 13-16-00678-CR, 2016 WL 7242843, at *1 (Tex. App.-Corpus Christi Dec. 14, 2016, orig. proceeding) (mem. op. per curiam) (denying mandamus relief).

[3] In a criminal matter, to be entitled to mandamus relief, the relator must establish both that he has no adequate remedy at law to redress his alleged harm, and that what he seeks to compel is a purely ministerial act not involving a discretionary or judicial decision. In re Harris, 491 S.W.3d 332, 334 (Tex. Crim. App. 2016) (orig. proceeding); In re McCann, 422 S.W.3d 701, 704 (Tex. Crim. App. 2013) (orig. proceeding). If the relator fails to meet both of these requirements, then the petition for writ of mandamus should ...

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