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Sandles v. Sandles

Court of Appeals of Texas, First District

June 15, 2017

ALVIN SANDLES, Appellant
v.
EFFIE SANDLES AND REGINALD ARCHIE, Appellees

         On Appeal from the Probate Court No. 4 Harris County, Texas Trial Court Case No. 428851-401

          Panel consists of Chief Justice Radack and Justices Keyes and Massengale.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Michael Massengale Justice

         Appellant Alvin Sandles appeals from a take-nothing judgment entered against him in favor of appellees Effie Sandles and Reginald Archie.[*] Alvin filed suit against the appellees claiming ownership to real property and seeking to quiet title to it. At the conclusion of Alvin's case-in-chief, the appellees moved for a directed verdict on the claims against them. The trial court granted the motion and entered judgment against Alvin.

         Because Alvin has failed to adequately brief issues on appeal contending that the trial court erred by granting the appellees' motion for directed verdict and by excluding evidence, we affirm.

         Background

         Alvin Sandles filed a quiet-title action against his aunt, Effie Sandles, and his cousin, Reginald Archie, who is the son of Alvin's deceased aunt (and Effie's deceased sister), Rachel Archie. The dispute concerns a parcel of residential real property located in Harris County, Texas. Alvin claimed ownership of the property as the heir of his deceased father, and he alleged that Effie and Reginald had no ownership interests in the property. Alvin attached several exhibits to his petition, including a 1956 deed in which his parents conveyed the property to Effie. Alvin also attached an affidavit of heirship in which Rachel claimed an ownership interest in the property. Alvin asserted that his mother's signature on the 1956 deed was forged and that Rachel's affidavit contained fraudulent information.

         Prior to trial, Alvin filed a document with the court entitled "Motion: Introduction and Request For Admission of Documentary Evidence." This document contained a report from a handwriting expert. In the report, the expert stated that she had reviewed several "purported" signatures of Alvin's mother and concluded that the signatures did not match the signature found on the 1956 deed conveying the property to Effie.

         During a bench trial, Alvin called several witnesses to testify about the property and who was supposed to inherit it after his father's death. Alvin also testified on his own behalf. During his testimony, he offered into evidence the handwriting expert's report about the purported signature of Alvin's mother on the deed to Effie. The appellees objected to the admission of the report on several grounds, including hearsay. Alvin argued that the report was admissible because it fell under the business- and public-records exceptions to the hearsay rule. The trial court sustained the appellees' objections and excluded the report. Although the trial court did not admit the report, it did admit, as a defense exhibit, the 1956 deed in which Alvin's parents conveyed the property to Effie.

         At the close of Alvin's case-in-chief, the appellees moved for a directed verdict on the quiet-title claims, contending that he had produced no evidence to support his cause of action. The trial court granted the motion, finding that Alvin had failed to produce evidence demonstrating he had an ownership interest in the property. The court also found that he had produced no evidence to demonstrate that the appellees' claim to the property was invalid.

         The court entered a take-nothing judgment against Alvin and in favor of Effie and Reginald. Alvin appealed.

         Analysis

         As he did in the trial court, Alvin is representing himself on appeal. Although we liberally construe pro se pleadings and briefs, we nonetheless require self-represented litigants to comply with applicable laws and rules of procedure. See Wheeler v. Green, 157 S.W.3d 439, 444 (Tex. 2005) ("pro se litigants are not exempt from the rules of procedure"); Mansfield State Bank v. Cohn, 573 S.W.2d 181, 184-85 (Tex. 1978). "Having two sets of rules-a strict set for attorneys and a lenient set for pro se parties-might encourage litigants to discard their valuable right to the advice and assistance of counsel." Wheeler, 157 S.W.3d at 444. "Litigants who represent themselves must comply with the applicable procedural rules, or else they would be given an unfair advantage over litigants represented by counsel." Mansfield State Bank, 573 S.W.2d at 185.

         Construing his brief liberally, the issues presented by Alvin lack merit. He contends that the trial court erred in two ways: by granting the appellees' motion for directed verdict and by excluding the handwriting expert's report. The remainder of Alvin's brief, however, provides no substantive legal analysis of ...


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