Court of Appeals of Texas, Third District, Austin
COUNTY COURT AT LAW NO. 8 OF TRAVIS COUNTY NO.
C-1-CR-14-100040, HONORABLE CARLOS HUMBERTO BARRERA, JUDGE
Chief Justice Rose, Justices Field and Shannon. [*]
Wrencher, Sr., appearing pro se, appeals from the
order of Travis County Court at Law No. 8 dismissing his
appeal for want of jurisdiction. Wrencher was attempting to
appeal from the judgment of the Austin Municipal Court of
Record. That court had concluded that Wrencher's pet,
"Skip, " was a "dangerous dog." Appellees
are Travis County and the City of Austin (the State). We will
reverse the order.
2013, while "outside an enclosure, " Skip bit a
bicyclist. After an evidentiary hearing, the Travis County
Animal Control department determined that Skip was a
"dangerous dog." Wrencher appealed that determination to
the Austin Municipal Court of Record. In May 2014, after
hearing, the municipal court rendered judgment affirming the
"dangerous dog" determination. Wrencher then
attempted to take an appeal from that judgment to Travis
County Court at Law No. 8.
response to the State's joint motion, the court dismissed
Wrencher's appeal, concluding that there was no statutory
authority for the appeal to county courts at law from civil
"dangerous dog" judgments of the municipal courts
times material, Texas Health and Safety Code sections
822.0421(b) and 822.0423(d) authorized an appeal from a
"dangerous dog" determination; those sections
provided that the owner of the claimed dangerous dog may
appeal the decision of the municipal court in the manner
provided for the appeal of other cases from the municipal
court. See Act of May 5, 1997, 75th Leg., R.S., ch.
99, § 2, secs. 822.0421, .0423, 1997 Tex. Gen. Laws 188,
190-91. At that time, two statutes set forth the
manner in which other cases were appealed from the municipal
court: the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Government
Code. See Tex. Code Crim. Proc. art. 44.02; Tex.
Gov't Code § 30.00014(a); In re Loban, 243
S.W.3d 827, 830 (Tex. App.-Fort Worth 2008) (orig.
44.02 affords a defendant the right to appeal from a criminal
conviction. However, because the "dangerous dog"
determination of the municipal court is a civil judgment
rather than a criminal conviction, it does not provide
Wrencher the right to appeal to the county court of law.
See Timmons v. Pecorino, 977 S.W.2d 603, 605 (Tex.
Crim. App. 1998).
government code furnishes a defendant the right to appeal
"from a judgment or conviction of a municipal court of
record." Texas Government Code section 30.00014 provides
in pertinent part:
(a) A defendant has the right of appeal from a judgment or
conviction in a municipal court of record. The state has the
right to appeal as provided by Article 44.01, Code of
Criminal Procedure. The county criminal courts or county
criminal courts of appeal in the county in which the
municipality is located or the municipal courts of appeal
have jurisdiction of appeals from a municipal court of
record. If there is no county criminal court, county criminal
court of appeal, or municipal court of appeal, the county
courts at law have jurisdiction of an appeal.
Gov't Code § 30.00014(a).
State argues that the language of section 30.00014(a)
contemplates only appeals from criminal cases originating in
municipal courts of record. In support of its position, the
State points to language in the first sentence: a
"defendant" has the right to appeal from a
"conviction" in the municipal court of record.
Court agrees that section 30.00014(a) affords a criminal
defendant an appeal from a conviction rendered in a municipal
court of record, but we are convinced that it also affords a
civil defendant an appeal. A "defendant" is, of
course, a person against whom a civil or criminal action is
brought. Section 30.00014(a) recognizes that a defendant has
an appeal from "a judgment or a
conviction" of a municipal court of record-two classes
of judicial decisions. See id. (emphasis added). The
word, "conviction" almost universally refers to a
judicial decision in a criminal matter, whereas
"judgment" commonly refers to a judicial decision
in a civil case.
Fort Worth Court recognized that section 30.00014(a) affords
a defendant the right to appeal from the civil decision of
the municipal court of record. See In re Loban, 243
S.W.3d at 830. In Loban, neither the Tarrant County
criminal court nor the Tarrant County court at law would
exercise jurisdiction of an appeal from a "dangerous
dog" judgment of the municipal court of record. The
relators sought a writ of ...