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Moody v. Nonstop Bail Bonds, Co.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourteenth District

June 8, 2017

STEVEN MOODY, PH.D., Appellant
v.
NONSTOP BAIL BONDS, CO., ET AL, Appellees

         On Appeal from the 113th District Court Harris County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. 2015-52163

          Panel consists of Chief Justice Frost and Justices Jamison and Busby.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          PER CURIAM

         Appellant Steven Moody, an inmate, appeals the trial court's order dismissing appellant's underlying civil action for failure to post security in accordance with the court's order.[1] In this appeal, appellant filed a motion to proceed without payment of costs. We conclude that appellant has failed to comply with the requirements of Chapter 14 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code and therefore we dismiss his appeal without reaching the merits of his challenge to the trial court's dismissal.

         Because this case involves a suit brought by an inmate in a district court in which the inmate filed an affidavit or unsworn declaration of inability to pay costs, the action is governed by Chapter 14 of the Civil Practice and Remedies Code. See Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 14.002(a) (West 2017). The requirements of Chapter 14 apply to actions filed in an appellate court. See Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 14.002(a). see Douglas v. Moffett, 418 S.W.3d 336, 339 (Tex. App.- Houston [14th Dist.] 2013, no pet.)

         "When an inmate litigant files an affidavit or unsworn declaration of inability to pay costs, Chapter 14 requires the inmate to file an additional affidavit or declaration setting forth specific details on all previous actions filed pro se, other than a suit brought under the Texas Family Code." Id. at 339 (citing Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 14.004(a)); see also Douglas v. Porter, No. 14- 10-00055-CV, 2011 WL 1601292, at *2-3 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] Apr. 26, 2011, pet. denied). This additional affidavit or unsworn declaration must be accompanied by a certified copy of the inmate's "trust account statement." Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. §§ 14.004(c), 14.006(f) (West 2017).

         "The filings required under [C]hapter 14 are 'an essential part of the process by which courts review inmate litigation.'" Douglas v. Turner, 441 S.W.3d 337, 339 (Tex. App.-Waco 2013, no pet.) (quoting Hickson v. Moya, 926 S.W.2d 397, 399 (Tex. App.-Waco 1996, no writ)). Failure to file the required affidavit or declaration of previous filings or the inmate trust account statement can result in dismissal of the appeal. See Moffett, 418 S.W.3d at 340. When the inmate fails to comply with the affidavit requirements, the court may assume that the current action is substantially similar to one previously filed by the inmate and is frivolous. Id.

         On appeal, appellant filed an affidavit of inability to pay costs. Appellant, however, did not file a certified copy of his inmate trust account statement with his affidavit of inability to pay costs, nor did he file an additional affidavit or declaration relating to previous filings.

         On April 27, 2017, notification was transmitted to the parties of this court's intention to dismiss the appeal unless appellant complied with Chapter 14 on or before May 8, 2017. See Tex. R. App. P. 42.3(a). After being notified that this appeal was subject to dismissal unless he fulfilled all of the missing Chapter 14 requirements, appellant filed an affidavit regarding previous filings, but failed to file a copy of his trust account statement.

         Appellees Nonstop Bail Bonds, Lafayette Taylor, and Financial Casualty and Security, Inc. filed a response to appellant's affidavit of previous filings and, alternatively, a motion to dismiss the appeal. These appellees listed four previous filings that were omitted from appellant's affidavit regarding previous filings. Appellant did not reply to appellees' response.

         When an inmate fails to provide a complete affidavit as required by section 14.004(a), a court is entitled to assume that the current action is substantially similar to a previous suit filed by the inmate and, therefore, subject to dismissal under section 14.003(a)(2) as frivolous. Moffett, 418 S.W.3d at 340; see Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 14.003(a)(2), (b)(4). Appellant's incomplete affidavit of previous filings does not describe the operative facts for which he sought relief, nor does it include all previous filings. See Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 14.004(a)(2)(A). Moreover, appellant failed to comply with chapter 14 by filing a copy of his inmate trust account statement.

         Appellant failed to comply with the requirements of chapter 14 after having been given an opportunity to cure the defects We grant appellees' motion and dismiss this appeal. See Foster v. West, 514 S.W.3d 887 (Tex. App.-Fort Worth 2017, no pet.); Dunsmore v. Barrow, No. 14-15-00572-CV, 2015 WL 7258506, at *2 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] Nov. 17, 2015, no pet.) (mem. op.).

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