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Leal v. SF Revocable Living Trust I

Court of Appeals of Texas, Ninth District, Beaumont

June 22, 2017

JOSEPH E. LEAL, Appellant
v.
SF REVOCABLE LIVING TRUST I, Appellee

          Submitted on June 17, 2016

         On Appeal from the County Court at Law Liberty County, Texas Trial Cause No. CAL-11947

          Before McKeithen, C.J., Kreger and Horton, JJ.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          HOLLIS HORTON JUSTICE

         Joseph E. Leal, appearing pro se, appeals from a summary judgment rendered by the Liberty County Court at Law in favor of SF Revocable Living Trust I ("Living Trust"). The judgment, which resulted in Leal being evicted from a 17.232 acre tract of property in Liberty County, awarded Living Trust the right to immediate possession of the tract.

         After the County Court at Law rendered its judgment, Leal appealed, asserting that because a dispute exists over who owns legal title in the tract, the County Court at Law did not have jurisdiction to decide a dispute involving who held title in the 17.232 acre tract. We conclude that Leal's challenge to the validity of the County Court at Law's judgment in the eviction case became moot when Leal was evicted from the tract after failing to post a supersedeas bond.

         Background

         Charles D. Snider Jr., as trustee of Living Trust, sought to evict Leal from possession of a 17.232 acre tract of property in Liberty County, Texas by filing an eviction suit in the Justice Court of Liberty County, Precinct Three. Following a trial, the Justice Court awarded Living Trust possession of the tract. After the Justice Court rendered judgment, Leal appealed the ruling to the County Court at Law. See Tex. R. Civ. P. 510.9(a) (allowing an appeal of an eviction case from the Justice Court upon the filing of a cash deposit in the Justice Court within five days of the Justice Court's judgment).

         After the case was appealed to the County Court at Law, Living Trust amended its complaint, and in its amended petition, Living Trust alleged that it had a superior right to possession of the tract based on a duly recorded deed dated September 17, 2014. The amended petition also alleges that Leal acquired his interest in the property through a deed of trust, which was secured by the tract, but that after acquiring his interest in the tract, Leal failed to timely pay the amounts that he owed on his note, resulting in the owner of the tract instituting proceedings to foreclose. Subsequently, Living Trust filed a combined traditional and no-evidence motion for summary judgment. In its motion, Living Trust asserted that it had a superior right to possess the tract, that Leal initially gained his right to occupy the tract because he purchased the property from Steve Hebert, subject to a deed of trust in Hebert's favor, that Leal defaulted on the note he gave Hebert to purchase the tract, and that following Leal's default, Hebert accelerated Leal's obligations under the note and then foreclosed on the tract. The motion for summary judgment reflects that Living Trust acquired its interest in the tract from Hebert, and it alleges that Leal continued to occupy the tract as a tenant at sufferance after Hebert foreclosed on the tract. The motion further alleges that after the foreclosure occurred and Living Trust acquired its interest in the tract from Hebert, Leal was given three days written notice to vacate but then failed to vacate the tract. Significantly, Leal did not file a response to Living Trust's motion for summary judgment.

         The County Court at Law conducted a hearing on Living Trust's motion for summary judgment on June 26, 2015. Following the hearing, the County Court at Law granted Living Trust's motion, and it rendered a judgment awarding Living Trust possession of the tract. In the judgment, the County Court at Law instructed the County Clerk to issue a writ of possession commanding any sheriff or constable to evict Leal from the tract. Subsequently, Leal filed an untimely request asking the County Court at Law to set a supersedeas bond. The record before us reflects that Leal never superseded the judgment.

         On June 30, 2015, Leal filed a motion to vacate the judgment and motion for new trial. Leal's post-judgment motion addresses the merits of Living Trust's motion for summary judgment, and Leal attached documents to the post-judgment motion that he argues support his position that Living Trust did not have a superior right of possession to the 17.232 acre tract. However, Leal's post-judgment motion does not assert that any of the evidence that is attached to his post-judgment motion was newly discovered evidence, and the motion does not explain why the same documents could not have been filed in a timely manner in response to Living Trust's motion for summary judgment. On the day Leal filed his motion for new trial, he filed a notice of appeal, appealing the County Court at Law's judgment.

         On November 17, 2015, the Liberty County Sheriff's Office executed a writ of possession on the 17.232 acre tract. The sheriff's return reflects that on November 17, 2015, Charles D. Snider Jr., as the agent for Living Trust, obtained possession of the tract, and nothing in the record reflects that Leal ever regained possession of the 17.232 acre tract after being evicted.

         Analysis

         In his appeal, Leal argues the trial court lacked jurisdiction to evict him from the tract. Leal also contends the trial court abused its discretion by failing to set a supersedeas bond in response to his request, which he filed on October 8, 2015. In response to the arguments Leal raises in his brief, Living Trust contends that ...


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