Court of Appeals of Texas, Third District, Austin
In re S. O.
PROCEEDING FROM TRAVIS COUNTY
Chief Justice Rose, Justices Field and Bourland
K. Field, Justice
S.O., a former University of Texas student who was awarded a
Ph.D. in Chemistry by the University in 2008, filed a
petition for writ of injunction and, in the alternative, a
petition for writ of prohibition seeking to prevent the real
parties in interest from conducting a hearing concerning
alleged violation of the University of Texas's
"Institutional Rules." S.O. seeks to enjoin real
parties in interest from conducting the hearing during the
pendency of S.O.'s appeal, which challenges, in part,
whether the trial court correctly concluded that her claims
were not ripe until the hearing had occurred.
filed suit against the University officials seeking
declaratory and injunctive relief prohibiting the University
officials from holding an internal disciplinary proceeding
for the purpose of deciding whether to revoke her Ph.D.
degree. S.O. alleged that such action was ultra
vires and a violation of her constitutional rights to
due process and equal protection. S.O. also sought a
temporary injunction to prevent the University from
conducting any proceedings related to her Ph.D. degree
pending resolution of her claims. The University officials
filed a plea to the jurisdiction in which they asserted that
the trial court lacked jurisdiction over S.O.'s claims
because they were not ripe. See Waco Indep. Sch. Dist. v.
Gibson, 22 S.W.3d 849, 851 (Tex. 2000) ("The
ripeness doctrine prevents premature adjudication of
hypothetical or contingent situations."). The University
officials also asserted that sovereign immunity barred
S.O.'s claims "concerning due process and equal
protection" because, in addition to the claims not being
ripe, her petition failed to set forth a "viable
claim" of a violation of either of these rights. See
City of Elsa v. M.A.L., 226 S.W.3d 390, 392 (Tex. 2007)
(per curiam) (holding that "'suits for injunctive
relief' may be maintained against governmental entities
to remedy violations of the Texas Constitution" (quoting
City of Beaumont v. Bouillion, 896 S.W.2d 143, 149
(Tex. 1995))); see also Andrade v. NAACP of Austin,
345 S.W.3d 1, 11 (Tex. 2011) (sovereign immunity retained
unless plaintiff has pleaded viable claim of violation of
February 17, 2016, the trial court held a hearing on
S.O.'s request for a temporary injunction and on the
University officials' plea to the jurisdiction. The trial
court did not grant temporary injunctive relief nor did it
rule on the University officials' plea. In March, S.O.
filed a motion for summary judgment. While that motion was
pending, the University informed S.O. that it would conduct
its disciplinary hearing on October 21, 2016. S.O. then served
the University officials with a request for production of
documents and a set of interrogatories related to the
disciplinary proceedings. The University officials filed a
motion for protection against the discovery requests and for
a stay of discovery until resolution of the plea to the
jurisdiction. The trial court conducted a hearing on the
motion for protection. A week after the hearing, the trial
court signed an order reciting that S.O.'s claims were
not ripe for review and granting the University
officials' plea to the jurisdiction. The trial court
dismissed S.O.'s claims and S.O. perfected an appeal to
this Court. That appeal is currently pending in this Court as
cause number 03-16-00726-CV.
currently stands, there is nothing to prevent the University
from going forward with a disciplinary proceeding for the
purpose of deciding whether to revoke S.O.'s Ph.D.
degree, an action S.O. has alleged to be an ultra
vires act. This Court has authority to issue writs of
injunction if necessary to enforce its own jurisdiction.
See Tex. Gov't Code § 22.221(a) ("Each
court of appeals . . . may issue a writ of mandamus and all
other writs necessary to enforce the jurisdiction of the
court."). This authority extends to the issuance of
writs necessary to preserve the subject matter of an appeal.
See In re Texas Ass'n of Sports Officials, No.
03-10-00029-CV, 2010 WL 392342, at *1 (Tex. App.-Austin Feb.
5, 2010, orig. proceeding) (mem. op.) (citing Beall v.
Strake, 602 S.W.2d 394, 395 (Tex. Civ. App.-Austin 1980,
orig. proceeding)). Here, the subject matter of S.O.'s
appeal is, in part, whether the trial court correctly
concluded that her claims were not ripe until the
disciplinary proceeding had occurred. Once that proceeding
has occurred, S.O.'s ultra vires claim seeking
to enjoin the allegedly unauthorized action will be moot.
See VE Corp. v. Ernst & Young, 860 S.W.2d 83, 84
(Tex. 1993) (per curiam) (if court's action on merits
cannot affect rights of parties, case is moot). If a case
becomes moot, the parties lose standing to maintain their
claims. See Williams v. Lara, 52 S.W.3d 171, 184
(Tex. 2001). Standing is a prerequisite to subject-matter
jurisdiction, and subject-matter jurisdiction is essential to
a court's power to decide a case. See Bland Indep.
Sch. Dist. v. Blue, 34 S.W.3d 547, 553-54 (Tex. 2000).
Thus, we agree that an injunction to prevent the University
officials from committing the allegedly ultra vires
act S.O. complains of is necessary to preserve the subject
matter of the underlying suit and enforce our jurisdiction
over S.O.'s appeal.
petition for writ of injunction is hereby granted. It is the
order of this Court that, pending disposition of the appeal
in cause number 03-16-00726-CV or further order of this
Court, the University officials and any persons or entities
acting in connection therewith are enjoined from conducting
any proceeding for the purpose of deciding whether to revoke
or otherwise take action with regard to S.O.'s Ph.D.
degree conferred by the University in 2008. The Clerk of this
Court is directed to issue the writ of injunction. No bond is
required as a condition to the issuance of this injunction.
See Duncan v. Dripping Springs Indep. Sch. Dist.,
612 S.W.2d 644, 647 (Tex. Civ. App.-Austin 1981, orig.
proceeding) (per curiam) (no bond required of relator as
condition to issuance of injunction issued for purpose of
protecting jurisdiction of this Court).
 Real parties in interest are
identified by S.O. as the following University of Texas
officials, in their official capacities: Gregory L. Fenves,
President; Vincent Shelby Stanfield, Registrar; Soncia
Reagins-Lilly, Dean of Students and Senior Associate
Vice-President for Student Affairs; Jeana Lungwitz, Clinical
Professor and Faculty Member; Paul L. Foster, Chairman of the
University of Texas Board of Regents; R. Steven Hicks,
Vice-Chairman of the University of Texas Board of Regents;
Jeffrey D. Hildebrand, Vice-Chairman of the University of
Texas Board of Regents; and University of Texas Board of
Regents Members Alex Cranberg, Wallace L. Hall, Jr., Brenda
Pejovich, Ernest Aliseda, David J. Beck, and Sara Martinez
Tucker. We will refer to these parties, collectively, as
"the University officials."
 At the Court's request, the
University officials filed a response in opposition to
S.O.'s petition for writ of injunction and, in the
alternative, writ of prohibition.
 The record reflects that the hearing
did not occur on October 21, 2016, and it is currently
scheduled to take ...