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Texas Voices for Reason and Justice, Inc. v. City of Argyle

Court of Appeals of Texas, Second District, Fort Worth

March 30, 2017

TEXAS VOICES FOR REASON AND JUSTICE, INC. APPELLANT
v.
THE CITY OF ARGYLE, TEXAS; THE CITY OF HICKORY CREEK, TEXAS; THE CITY OF OAK POINT, TEXAS; AND THE CITY OF PONDER, TEXAS APPELLEES

         FROM THE 211TH DISTRICT COURT OF DENTON COUNTY TRIAL COURT NO. 15-10761-211

          PANEL: WALKER, MEIER, and GABRIEL, JJ.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION [1]

          SUE WALKER JUSTICE.

         I. Introduction

         Appellant Texas Voices for Reason and Justice, Inc. ("TVRJ") filed a "Motion to Seal Evidentiary Documents and for Protective Order" in the trial court. See Tex. R. Civ. P. 76a, 192.6. The trial court denied TVRJ's motion, and TVRJ perfected this interlocutory appeal raising two issues challenging the denial of its motion for a sealing order and the denial of its motion for a protective order, respectively.[2] Because TVRJ's request for a temporary sealing order was premature, we will affirm the trial court's order denying it. And, because TVRJ is not required to obtain a protective order before identifying its members by pseudonyms, we will affirm the trial court's order denying TVRJ's motion for a protective order, at this time, based on the record before us.

         II. Factual and Procedural Background

         TVRJ filed suit against Appellees The City of Argyle, Texas; The City of Hickory Creek, Texas; The City of Oak Point, Texas; and The City of Ponder, Texas, asserting a state-law claim under Article XI, Section 4 of the Texas constitution challenging the validity of sex-offender, residency-restriction ordinances ("SORROs") enacted by each Appellee. TVRJ asserted it possessed associational standing to sue on behalf of its members for interim equitable relief, a declaratory judgment, a permanent injunction, and attorney's fees. All Appellees filed pleas to the jurisdiction asserting that TVRJ lacked associational standing to sue on behalf of its members.

         TVRJ filed a "Motion to Seal Evidentiary Documents and for Protective Order" explaining that TVRJ

is a domestic, nonprofit organization duly incorporated under Title 2, Chapter 22, et seq., of the Texas Business Organizations Code. It has brought this suit on behalf of members of its organization who are required to register as "sex offenders" under Chapter 62 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure.

         TVRJ's motion further explained that in order to adequately respond to Appellees' pleas to jurisdiction challenging TVRJ's associational standing, TVRJ would need to file evidence--including but not limited to affidavits from its members who are required to register under Chapter 62--in opposition to the allegations made the basis of some or all of Appellees' pleas to jurisdiction.[3] TVRJ's motion further explained:

[TVRJ] moves the Court to enter an order allowing it to file "under seal" evidentiary documents in response to the aforementioned plea to jurisdiction issues raised by Defendants Hickory Creek, Argyle and Ponder. Secondly, [TVRJ] moves the Court to enter a protective order prohibiting all Defendant-Parties, and their respective counsel, from disclosing any identifying information concerning any person named in the evidentiary documents to be filed by Plaintiff and shared by Plaintiff with all Defense Counsel, in response to the pleas to jurisdiction filed by Defendants Hickory Creek, Argyle[, ] and Ponder.[4]

         Appellees filed a joint response to TVRJ's motion, and TVRJ filed a reply. After a hearing, the trial court signed an order denying TVRJ's motion in toto. See Tex. R. Civ. P. 76a(4), (6).

         III. Standard of Review

         We review a trial court's denial of relief under Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 76a for an abuse of discretion. See Gen. Tire, Inc. v. Kepple, 970 S.W.2d 520, 526 (Tex. 1998). With respect to factual matters, a trial court abuses its discretion if, under the record, it reasonably could have reached only one decision, and it failed to do so. See Walker v. Packer, 827 S.W.2d 833, 840 (Tex. 1992) (orig. proceeding). With respect to the application of the law, a trial judge has no discretion in determining what the law is or in applying ...


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