Court of Appeals of Texas, Twelfth District, Tyler
GRADY L. MUHAMMAD A/K/A GRADY L. CHOICE, APPELLANT
PLAINS PIPELINE, L.P., A TEXAS LIMITED PARTNERSHIP, APPELLEE
FROM THE COUNTY COURT AT LAW NO. 2 SMITH COUNTY, TEXAS
(TR.CT.NO. 64, 930-A)
consisted of Worthen, C.J., Hoyle, J., and Neeley, J.
T. WORTHEN CHIEF JUSTICE.
L. Muhammad a/k/a Grady L. Choice complains of a condemnation
proceeding involving easement rights granted to Plains
Pipeline, L.P. for the construction and operation of a
pipeline through and across real property located in Smith
County, Texas. In two issues, Muhammad appeals the trial
court's final judgment of condemnation. We dismiss the
appeal for want of jurisdiction.
December 15, 2015, Plains filed a petition in condemnation
action against Muhammad seeking easement rights to real
property located in Smith County, Texas. On January 14, 2016,
the trial court appointed three disinterested real property
owners residing in Smith County to serve as special
commissioners and assess damages by reason of the acquisition
through eminent domain. On March 3, the special commissioners
held a hearing to assess the damages at which Muhammad
appeared in person. The special commissioners awarded $3, 191
in damages. The award was filed with the court on
March 18. No party objected to the award.
April 29, Plains filed a motion for judgment in the absence
of objections. On June 2, the court held a hearing at which
it entered a judgment of condemnation adopting the special
commissioner's recommendation of $3, 191 in damages. This
eminent domain proceeding is not within the general
jurisdiction of the court; any power to act is special and
depends upon the eminent domain statute. In re Energy
Transfer Fuel, LP, 250 S.W.3d 178, 180-181 (Tex.
App.-Tyler 2008, orig. proceeding); see also Gulf Energy
Pipeline Co. v. Garcia, 884 S.W.2d 821, 822 (Tex.
App.-San Antonio 1994, orig. proceeding). The initial filing
of the petition and commissioner's hearing is an
administrative proceeding that converts into a normal pending
cause only when objections to the commissioners' award
are filed. In re Energy Transfer Fuel, LP, 250
S.W.3d. at 181. The law allows for a party dissatisfied with
the special commissioner's award a certain amount of time
to file objections. Musquiz v. Harris Cty. Flood Control
Dist., 31 S.W.3d 664, 666-67 (Tex. App.-Houston [1st
Dist.] 2000, no pet.).
Specifically, the property code provides the following:
A party to a condemnation proceeding may object to the
findings of the special commissioners by filing a written
statement of the objections and their grounds with the court
that has jurisdiction of the proceeding. The statement must
be filed on or before the first Monday following the 20th day
after the day the commissioners file their findings with the
Tex. Prop. Code. Ann. § 21.018(a) (West 2014). If no
party to the condemnation proceeding files timely objections
to the special commissioner's findings, then the court
having jurisdiction shall adopt the commissioners'
findings as the judgment of the court. See In re Energy
Transfer Fuel, LP, 250 S.W.3d at 181; Tex. Prop. Code
Ann. § 21.061 (West 2014). Absent objections from either
party, the trial court's function is ministerial; it
lacks jurisdiction to do anything except render judgment
based upon the commissioners' award. In re Energy
Transfer Fuel, LP, 250 S.W.3d at 181.
appeal can be taken when the trial court renders judgment
based on an award to which neither party filed objections,
because it is the judgment of the special tribunal. Rose
v. State, 497 S.W.2d 444, 445 (Tex. 1973) (holding that
such a judgment is ministerial and is not a judgment in a
civil suit, because the proceedings did not reach the stage
of "a case in court"); see also Ford v. Dallas
Indep. Sch. Dist., No. 05-04-01714-CV, 2005 WL 1552647,
at *1 (Tex. App.-Dallas July 5, 2005, no pet.) (mem. op.)
(dismissing appeal, in part, for want of jurisdiction when no
timely objections were made to commissioners' award);
see also Restitution Revival v. Waco Indep. Sch.
Dist., No. 10-02-00248-CV, 2003 WL 22359189 at *1 (Tex.
App.-Waco Oct. 15, 2003, pet. denied) (mem. op.) ("It is
well settled that a judgment which a court renders on the
basis of an award to which there have been no objections is
the judgment of a special tribunal and is not, therefore, a
judgment from which an appeal will lie");
Musquiz, 31 S.W.3d at 667.
case, the record demonstrates that neither party filed
objections to the special commissioners'
award. Accordingly, because no objections were
made to the commissioners' award, we have no jurisdiction
to consider this appeal. See Rose, 497 S.W.2d at
445; see ...