MATTHEW S. BOVEE, Appellant
HOUSTON PRESS LLP, MARGARET DOWNING, DIANNA WRAY, PETER RYAN, DALLAS OBSERVER, LLP, KXAN, DAWN DENNY, PATRICK WILLIAMS, MEDIA GENERAL INC., VOICE MEDIA GROUP, DOES 1 THROUGH 5, AND JANE DOE, Appellees
the 249th District Court Johnson County, Texas Trial Court
Chief Justice Gray, Justice Davis, and Justice Scoggins
GRAY, CHIEF JUSTICE
S. Bovee appeals the trial court's order pursuant to a
Rule 76a motion to seal court records. Because the trial
court did not err in implicitly overruling Bovee's motion
for a bench warrant, did not err in reviewing documents
in camera, and did not abuse its discretion in
rendering the order, we affirm the trial court's order.
a prison inmate, sued Johnny Doe's mother and others
alleging they conspired to publish defamatory news articles
about Bovee. The articles pertained to Bovee's criminal
actions, particularly sexual abuse of Johnny, at a summer
camp. Johnny and his family's true identities were not
disclosed in the articles. However, Bovee included
Johnny's and Johnny's family's names in
Bovee's civil pleadings. Johnny, as a non-party, filed a
motion to seal court records to protect his anonymity and
emotional well-being. After a hearing, the trial court issued
an order redacting from all pleadings filed in the case
Johnny's name and the name of any person if the use of
that person's name would tend to identify Johnny and
prohibiting the filing of future pleadings which use
Johnny's name or the name of any person if the use of
that person's name would tend to identify Johnny.
it could be dispositive of this case, we address Bovee's
fifth issue first. In that issue, Bovee complains that the
trial court erred in denying Bovee's motion for a bench
warrant to be present at the hearing on Johnny Doe's
motion to seal records. The motion to seal was filed on July
30, 2015, and a temporary order was signed on July 31, 2015.
A hearing was set for August 28, 2015. Bovee's motion for
a bench warrant was filed on August 17, 2015. Bovee's
reason for requesting the bench warrant was "so that I
may give testimony and oppose the Motion [to Seal]."
Based on the record before us, we cannot tell that the trial
court expressly ruled on Bovee's motion. Bovee, however,
appeared at the hearing by telephone. Thus, by proceeding with the
hearing without issuing the bench warrant, and if the motion
was timely called to the attention of the trial court, the
trial court impliedly overruled Bovee's motion.
See Tex. R. App. P. 33.1(a)(2)(A). From the record
before us, we cannot tell if the motion was timely called to
the trial court's attention. We will assume without
deciding, however, that it was and proceed to address the
merits of the implied ruling.
cannot be denied access to the courts simply because they are
inmates. See Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 523, 82
L.Ed.2d 393, 104 S.Ct. 3194 (1984). However, an inmate does
not have an absolute right to appear in person in every court
proceeding. In the Interest of Z.L.T., 124 S.W.3d
163, 165 (Tex. 2003). Instead, the inmate's right of
access to the courts must be weighed against the protection
of our correctional system's integrity. Id.
Consequently, a prisoner requesting a bench warrant must
justify the need for his presence. Id. A trial court
has no independent duty to inquire into 1) relevant facts not
provided by the inmate, or 2) the necessity of an
inmate's appearance. See id. at 166.
request for a bench warrant stated no basis for why his
appearance in court was necessary to preserve his
constitutional right, and it included no information by which
the trial court could assess the necessity of his appearance.
Further, he failed to provide any factual information showing
why his interest in appearing at the hearing outweighed the
protection of the correctional system's integrity.
Because Bovee failed to make the required showing and the
trial court is not required, on its own, to seek out the
necessary information, the trial court did not abuse its
discretion by implicitly denying Bovee's request for a
fifth issue is overruled.
first issue, Bovee argues the trial court erred in issuing a
sealing order that did not comply with section (6) of Rule
76a. Specifically, he asserts the trial court failed to state
a time period for the duration of the court's order.
See Tex. R. Civ. P. 76a(6). Rule 76a(6) provides the
written order sealing court records, "shall
state:…the time period for which the sealed portions
of the court records are to be sealed." Id.
result of the hearing on the motion to seal, the trial court
ordered the name of Johnny Doe and names of any other persons
which, if used, would tend to identify Johnny Doe redacted
from all pleadings on file in the case. The trial court
further ordered, "[f]rom the date of this Order forward,
no pleadings may use the actual names of ...