Court of Appeals of Texas, Fifth District, Dallas
Appeal from the County Court at Law No. 5 Dallas County,
Texas Trial Court Cause No. CC-15-06223-E
Justices Bridges, Myers, and Brown.
King and all other occupants of a certain apartment in
Mesquite (collectively referred to as "King")
appeal an agreed judgment in favor of Forty 200 in its
eviction suit. In a single issue in this pro se appeal, King
contends the trial court abused its discretion in failing to
appoint an attorney to represent her pro bono under
government code section 25.0020. We affirm.
Forty 200 filed suit in justice court to evict King from an
apartment for nonpayment of rent. In November 2015, the
justice court rendered a no-answer default judgment in favor
of Forty 200. King timely appealed pro se to the county court
by filing a statement of inability to pay. See Tex.
R. Civ. P. 510.9.
December 29, 2015, King filed with the county court a written
request for an attorney to represent her at trial based on
her inability to pay for one. A few days later King filed a
pro se answer.
case was called to trial on January 12, 2016. Forty 200
called one witness, its investment manager who had control
over its rental and accounting information. King declined the
judge's request to ask the witness any questions. The
judge then asked her if she had anything she wanted to say in
defense of the lawsuit. King handed the judge something and
told him that her attorney "in Judge Benson's
court" told her to give it to him. King explained that
Forty 200 purchased the apartment property the previous March
and took possession of the property in June. She stated that
she had been offering Forty 200 rent, but Forty 200 refused
to take her money because "the attorneys are working it
out." King asked the judge if he got her answer and
handed him a copy of it.
then said, "And she is on her way down here. I don't
know if she'll make it in time. That's why we were
asking . . . for another attorney, because the current
attorney that's representing me is not out of this court
and I don't understand all of this stuff that's going
on." The judge responded, "Okay." At that
point, attorney Nadine King-Mays entered the courtroom. The
county court judge indicated he had not realized until then
that King was represented by counsel. Forty 200's counsel
explained that King-Mays represented King in a separate
eviction action in another court. (That suit was apparently
brought by the previous owner of the apartment complex who
sold the complex to Forty 200.) King had used the answer
King-Mays filed on King's behalf in that suit as her pro
se answer in this case, and it still had King-May's
signature block on it. King confirmed that was correct.
King-Mays stated she was under the impression the judge was
making a determination as to whether or not King needed to
have an attorney representing her pro bono in this case.
King-Mays stated her opinion that King needed an attorney
because the case was "kind of complex" and because
"we're still in Judge Benson's court on this
same case." The judge said, "I'll let you go
forward with whatever hearing you have in Judge Benson's
court . . . but understand now, though, that you're not
representing Ms. King in this proceeding." King-Mays
responded, "Well, 'cause I had to be appointed as
pro bono. In Judge Benson's court I have to be appointed.
So if you're going to appoint me, then you're going
to appoint me . . . so that I can move over from that court
to this court." King-Mays proceeded to argue that King
was actually being evicted for having complained about the
complex's failure to make repairs.
200's attorney cross-examined King and then presented
evidence of Forty 200's attorney's fees. The judge
indicated he was going to withhold judgment until after an
upcoming hearing in the other eviction suit and took the
matter under advisement.
days later, the county court referred the case to a mediator,
and the parties reached a settlement at mediation in February
2016. In March 2016, King-Mays filed a notice of
non-representation. The notice informed the trial court that
King-Mays had been appointed to represent King in County
Court at Law No. 1, and that although King had requested an
attorney in the trial court, no appointment was made. King
believed King-Mays was erroneously listed as King's
attorney. At King's request, King-Mays asked the court to
correct the error and appoint an attorney to assist King. In
April 2016, the trial court and the parties signed an agreed
final judgment awarding Forty 200 possession of the property,
money damages, and attorney's fees.
appeal, King contends the county court abused its discretion
in failing to appoint an attorney to represent her in that
court pursuant to section 25.0020 of the government code.
Section 25.0020 provides:
(a) On a written application of any party to an eviction
suit, the county court or county count at law in which an
appeal of the suit is filed may appoint any qualified
attorney who is willing to provide pro bono services in the
matter or counsel from a list provided by a pro bono legal
services program of counsel willing to be appointed to handle
appeals under this section to attend to the cause of party
(1) was in possession of the residence at the time the
eviction suit was filed in the justice court; and
(2) has perfected the appeal on a pauper's affidavit
approved in accordance with [former] Rule 729a, Texas ...