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Floyd v. Wharton County

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

May 18, 2017

CHARLES LINDER FLOYD, Appellant,
v.
WHARTON COUNTY, TEXAS, Appellee.

         On appeal from the 329th District Court of Wharton County, Texas.

          Before Chief Justice Valdez and Justices Rodriguez and Hinojosa.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          NELDA V. RODRIGUEZ Justice.

         Appellant Charles Linder Floyd, pro se, appeals from a default judgment entered in favor of appellee Wharton County, Texas, in a suit for delinquent taxes and for foreclosure of a tax lien on a piece of real property located in Wharton County, Texas.[1] See Tex. Tax Code Ann. §§ 33.41-.53 (West, Westlaw through 2015 R.S.). By two issues, Floyd brings personal-jurisdiction due process claims, contending that the judgment was void because "the [t]rial [c]ourt never acquired jurisdiction over all persons needed for a valid, binding, and enforceable adjudication." We affirm.

         I. Subject-Matter Jurisdiction

         On November 8, 2016, we abated the appeal and requested supplemental briefing from the parties regarding this Court's jurisdiction to consider this appeal and the trial court's jurisdiction to vacate a March 11, 2013 judgment more than one year later on July 21, 2014, to reinstate Wharton County's cause of action, and to issue a new judgment on August 17, 2015, the determination of which affects our jurisdiction. After receiving the requested supplemental briefs, we reinstated the appeal. Before addressing Floyd's personal-jurisdiction issues, we address the matter of subject-matter jurisdiction.[2]

         A. This Court's Subject-Matter Jurisdiction

         1. Standard of Review and Applicable Law

         Subject-matter jurisdiction is essential to a court's power to decide a case. Bland Ind. Sch. Dist. v. Blue, 34 S.W.3d 547, 553-54 (Tex. 2000) (citing Tex. Ass'n of Bus. v. Tex. Air Control Bd., 852 S.W.2d 440, 443 (Tex. 1993)). We treat challenges to a court's subject-matter jurisdiction as questions of law that we review de novo. See State v. Holland, 221 S.W.3d 639, 642 (Tex. 2007).

         A timely notice of appeal must be filed in order to invoke this Court's jurisdiction. See Tex. R. App. P. 25.1(b). "Once the period for granting a motion for extension of time under Rule [26.3] has passed, a party can no longer invoke the appellate court's jurisdiction." Verburgt v. Dorner, 959 S.W.2d 615, 617 (Tex. 1997).

         A notice of appeal must be filed within thirty days after the judgment is signed. Tex.R.App.P. 26.1. "The appellate court may extend the time to file the notice of appeal if, within 15 days after the deadline for filing the notice of appeal, the party: (a) files in the trial court the notice of appeal; and (b) files in the appellate court a motion complying with Rule 10.5(b)." Id. R. 26.3; see also id. R. 10.5(b) (governing contents of motions to extend time). If an appellant files a notice of appeal within fifteen days after the date it was due but does not file a motion to extend time, as in this case, we generally consider the appeal perfected because the filing of the notice of appeal within the fifteen-day window for extension "implies" a motion requesting an extension. See Verburgt, 959 S.W.2d at 616-17; see also In re J.Z.P., 484 S.W.3d 924, 925 (Tex. 2016) (per curiam) ("Filed two days after the deadline, [appellant's] notice of appeal implied a motion for an extension of time."); Hone v. Hanafin, 104 S.W.3d 884, 887 (Tex. 2003) (per curiam) (applying Verburgt). But the appellant must still provide a reasonable explanation for the late filing. See Tex. R. App. P. 10.5(b)(1)(C); see also id. R. 26.3; In re K.M.Z., 178 S.W.3d 432, 434 (Tex. App.-Fort Worth 2005, no pet.) (dismissing the appeal for lack of jurisdiction because the appellant did not provide a reasonable explanation for the late filing of her notice of appeal).

         2. Discussion

         Wharton County argues that this Court does not have jurisdiction over this appeal because Floyd filed his notice of appeal after the filing deadline and did not file a timely motion for extension of time to file his notice of appeal. Floyd asserts that we have jurisdiction because he filed his notice of appeal timely within fifteen days from the initial thirty days of time to file the notice of appeal and that, having done so, we must imply a motion for extension of time to file his notice of appeal. We agree with Floyd and further note that on November 2, 2015, Floyd filed a motion for leave to file his notice of appeal and by order and corresponding notice, we granted it.

         Floyd's notice of appeal was due on September 16, 2015, thirty days after the trial court entered a final judgment. See Tex. R. App. P. 25.1. With the extension window, it was due on October 1, 2015. We received Floyd's notice of appeal, without a motion to extend, on October 5, 2015.[3] On November 2, 2015, Floyd filed his amended notice of appeal and his motion to extend time to file his notice advising this Court that he had mailed the notice on September 30, 2015, within fifteen days after the date it was due. In his motion to extend, Floyd advised the Court of "serious medical difficulties" that "hampered [his] ability to comply sooner with the relevant deadlines." We granted Floyd's motion on November 20, 2015.

         It is undisputed that Floyd's notice was mailed on September 30, 2015, and we received it on October 5, 2015. When a notice of appeal is mailed, that pleading "is considered timely filed" if it: (1) is received within ten days after the filing deadline; (2) was sent to the proper clerk by United States mail in a properly addressed and stamped envelope or wrapper; and (3) was deposited in the mail on or before the filing deadline. Tex.R.App.P. 9.2(b)(1); In re Smith, 270 S.W.3d 783, 786 (Tex. App.-Waco 2008) (orig. proceeding). Floyd mailed his notice of appeal after the thirty-day deadline but within the fifteen-day extension deadline, and we received his notice within ten days after the filing deadline. The notice was deemed timely filed, and a motion requesting an extension was implied. See Tex. R. App. P. 9.2(b)(1); Verburgt, 959 S.W.2d at 616-17; see also In re J.Z.P., 484 S.W.3d at 925.

         Because a motion to extend was implied, Floyd was required to articulate a reasonable explanation for the late filing. See Verburgt, 959 S.W.2d at 616-17; see also In re J.Z.P., 484 S.W.3d at 925. Floyd subsequently filed a motion for extension of time to file his notice of appeal, providing such an explanation. In his motion, Floyd discussed the mailing of his notice on September 20, 2015, and his serious medical ...


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