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Rodriquez v. State

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourteenth District

May 2, 2017

EVONNE MICHELLE RODRIQUEZ, Appellant
v.
THE STATE OF TEXAS, Appellee

         On Appeal from the 339th District Court Harris County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. 0770063

          Panel consists of Justices Christopher, Busby, and Jewell.

          OPINION

          TRACY CHRISTOPHER JUSTICE.

         We consider two questions in this appeal from the renewal of an involuntary commitment order for continued inpatient mental health services: first, whether the trial court had jurisdiction to issue the order; and second, whether there is legally sufficient evidence to support the order. We conclude that the trial court had jurisdiction, but that its order is not supported by legally sufficient evidence. We reverse the trial court's order and render judgment that appellant does not continue to meet the criteria for involuntary commitment for extended inpatient mental health services.

         BACKGROUND

         In 1998, appellant was found not guilty by reason of insanity in the capital murder of her infant child. Following her acquittal, the trial court issued an order involuntarily committing appellant to inpatient treatment at a mental hospital. The order was initially set to expire after a period of thirty days, but the trial court renewed it for a longer duration upon finding that appellant still required inpatient treatment. The trial court continued to renew its commitment order after additional periodic reviews.

         In 2016, before the commitment order was scheduled to be reviewed again, the mental hospital recommended that appellant receive treatment on an outpatient basis. The State opposed the recommendation, and the trial court conducted a non-jury hearing to determine whether a transition to outpatient care would be appropriate. Concluding that appellant still met the criteria for involuntary commitment for continued inpatient mental health services, the trial court issued an order renewing its commitment order for a period of one year. Appellant timely appealed from that renewal order.

         JURISDICTION

         In her first issue, appellant challenges whether the trial court had jurisdiction to renew its commitment order.

         The test for subject-matter jurisdiction is whether the trial court has the power to enter upon an inquiry, not whether its conclusions are substantively correct. See Diocese of Galveston-Houston v. Stone, 892 S.W.2d 169, 174 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 1994, orig. proceeding). A trial court has subject- matter jurisdiction "when the nature of the case falls within the general category of cases the court is empowered, under applicable statutory and constitutional provisions, to adjudicate." Id.

         The trial court derived its power to adjudicate the question of appellant's involuntary commitment from Former Article 46.03 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure.[1] By the plain language of that statute, the trial court was required to commit a person to a mental hospital if the person was found not guilty by reason of insanity in a case involving serious bodily injury to another. See Act effective Sept. 1, 1989, 71st Leg., R.S., ch. 393, § 9, 1989 Tex. Gen. Laws 1520, 1525 (Former Art. 46.03, § 4(d)(1)). The statute provided that "the trial court shall retain jurisdiction over the person so acquitted." Id. (Former Art. 46.03, § 4(d)(1)). The statute also provided that "the court shall order that the person be returned to a mental hospital" if, upon a periodic review of its commitment order, "the court determines that the acquitted person continues to meet the criteria for involuntary commitment." See Act effective Aug. 29, 1983, 68th Leg., R.S., ch. 454, § 3, 1983 Tex. Gen. Laws 2640, 2645 (Former Art. 46.03, § 4(d)(5)).

         The trial court issued its renewal order citing the authority given to it under Former Article 46.03. Appellant now argues that this explicit reliance on a repealed statute has the effect of negating the trial court's jurisdiction. We disagree.

         The act that repealed Former Article 46.03 contained a savings clause, which provided as follows:

The change in law made by this Act applies only to an offense committed on or after the effective date of this Act. An offense committed before the effective date of this Act is covered by the law in effect when the offense was committed, and the former law is continued in effect for that purpose. For purposes of this section, an offense was committed before the effective date of this Act if any element of the offense was committed before that date.

Act effective Sept. 1, 2005, 79th Leg., R.S., ch. 831, § 5, 2005 Tex. Gen. Laws 2841, 2853-54. Under the terms of this savings clause, Former Article 46.03 remains in effect for appellant's purposes because it was the operative law at the time of her offense. The trial court accordingly had jurisdiction to issue its renewal order pursuant to Former Article 46.03. See Laney v. State, 223 S.W.3d 656, 660- 61 (Tex. App.-Tyler 2007, no pet.) (holding that the trial court had jurisdiction under Former Article 46.03 as applied to a person found not guilty by reason of insanity for an offense committed before that statute's repeal).

         Appellant also advances two more grounds for arguing that the trial court lacked jurisdiction: first, because the previous commitment order had already expired; and second, because the State had not filed a motion to renew it. Appellant is mistaken on both grounds.

         As for the first ground, the record reveals that the trial court signed its previous commitment order on September 10, 2015, and the terms of that order provided for appellant's continued treatment for a period lasting no longer than twelve months. The trial court conducted its review hearing on July 8, 2016, three months before that period was scheduled to end. The trial court also signed its renewal order the same day as the hearing. The record does not support appellant's factual assertion that the previous commitment order had already expired.

         As for the second ground, appellant's factual assertion is correct: the record does not reveal that the State filed a motion to renew the commitment order. But appellant's legal premise is incorrect, as a motion from the State is not a jurisdictional prerequisite to a renewal order. Under the terms of Former Article 46.03, the trial court may conduct a hearing to determine whether a person should remain in inpatient treatment "on its own motion." See Act effective Aug. 29, 1983, 68th Leg., R.S., ch. 454, § 3, 1983 Tex. Gen. Laws 2640, 2645 (Former Art. 46.03, § 4(d)(5)); Harrison v. State, 239 S.W.3d 368, 371 (Tex. App.-Beaumont 2007, no pet.).

         We overrule appellant's jurisdictional challenge.

         SUFFICIENCY ...


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