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McCraw v. C.I.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Ninth District, Beaumont

August 3, 2017

STEVEN MCCRAW, Appellant
v.
C.I., Appellee

          Submitted on January 19, 2017

         On Appeal from the 136th District Court Jefferson County, Texas Trial Cause No. D-198352

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

          OPINION

          CHARLES KREGER, Justice

         In the suit underlying this interlocutory appeal, C.I. seeks declaratory and injunctive relief from efforts by state and local officials to require him to register under the Texas sex offender registration program ("SORP") of Chapter 62 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. See generally Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. arts. 62.001-.408 (West 2006 & Supp. 2016). Appellant, Steven McCraw, in his official capacity as the Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, appeals from an order of the trial court denying his plea to the jurisdiction. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm the trial court's ruling.

         Background

         The facts underlying this case are undisputed. In 1986, C.I. pled guilty to the offense of Indecency with a Child in the Criminal District Court of Jefferson County, Texas. That court accepted the plea, substantiated C.I.'s guilt, and, pursuant to article 42.12 of the Code of Criminal Procedure as it then existed, "defer[red] further proceedings without entering an adjudication of guilt" and "place[d] [C.I.] under [community] Supervision for a period of ten (10) years, " subject to various conditions of probation. C.I. successfully completed the full term of his probation, and in 1996, the Criminal District Court entered an order dismissing the case against him. In 2014, the Beaumont Police Department contacted C.I. and notified him, for the first time, that he was required to register as a sex offender. C.I. is listed by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) on the State's sex offender registry as having been convicted of indecency with a child in its online database.

         C.I. filed suit against DPS[1], McCraw, the City of Beaumont, and James P. Singletary, Chief of Police for the City of Beaumont, under the Uniform Declaratory Judgment Act ("DJA"), seeking "to determine his rights under the plea agreement into which he entered with the State of Texas, to determine his status in regard to whether or not he was convicted of a felony, and to determine his offender registration status." McCraw, the City of Beaumont, and Singletary each filed pleas to the jurisdiction. After a hearing, the trial court granted the pleas filed by the City of Beaumont and Singletary, but denied the plea by McCraw. McCraw then filed notice of interlocutory appeal. See Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 51.014(a)(8) (West Supp. 2016); Texas A & M Univ. Sys. v. Koseoglu, 233 S.W.3d 835, 846 (Tex. 2007) ("a state official may seek interlocutory appellate review from the denial of a jurisdictional plea.").[2]

         Standard of Review

         A plea to the jurisdiction is a dilatory plea that challenges a trial court's authority to decide a case on the merits. Bland Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Blue, 34 S.W.3d 547, 554 (Tex. 2000). When a plea to the jurisdiction asserts sovereign immunity in a suit against a government official, the claimant bears the burden of pleading sufficient facts to affirmatively demonstrate the court's jurisdiction. Tex. Dep't of Parks & Wildlife v. Miranda, 133 S.W.3d 217, 226 (Tex. 2004). Whether the trial court has subject matter jurisdiction is a question of law that we review under a de novo standard, construing the pleadings liberally in plaintiff's favor and looking to his intent. See id. We also review matters of statutory construction de novo. In re Mem'l Hermann Hosp. Sys., 464 S.W.3d 686, 700 (Tex. 2015).

         Analysis

         In three issues, McCraw argues that: (1) he has not waived sovereign immunity; (2) C.I.'s plea agreement and successful completion of deferred adjudication do not nullify the requirement that C.I. register as a sex offender; and (3) C.I. cannot obtain a declaratory judgment on an issue arising under a penal statute. We will address the issue concerning the applicability of the SORP requirements first, as the resolution of that issue controls the question of sovereign immunity in this matter.

         1. Requirement of Registration After Successful Deferred Adjudication

         The Texas legislature first enacted the sex offender registration statutes in 1991. Act of May 26, 1991, 72nd Leg., R.S., ch. 572, §§ 1, 4-5, 1991 Tex. Gen. Laws 2029-32 (originally located at Tex. Rev. Civ. Stat. Ann. art. 6252-13c.1) (amended, codified, and redesignated); Rodriguez v. State, 93 S.W.3d 60, 66 (Tex. Crim. App. 2002). At that time, the registration requirements "applie[d] only to a reportable conviction or adjudication [of delinquent conduct] occurring on or after September 1, 1991." Act of May 26, 1991, 72nd Leg., R.S., ch. 572, § 1, sec. 1(5), 8(a), 1991 Tex. Gen. Laws 2029, 2030. In 1993, the Legislature expanded the definition of "reportable conviction or adjudication" to include deferred adjudications for specific offenses, including indecency with a child, but applied the expanded definition only to offenses "for which an order of deferred adjudication [was] entered by the court on or after September 1, 1993." Act of May 30, 1993, 73rd Leg., R.S., ch. 866, §§ 1, 3(a)(2), 1993 Tex. Gen. Laws 3420-21 (originally located at Tex. Rev. Civ. Stat. Ann. art. 6252-13c.1, §§ 1(5)(E), 8(a)(2)) (amended, codified, and redesignated). Thus, it is undisputed that C.I. had no duty to register under the SORP either at the time of its enactment in 1991, nor at the time that the criminal case against him was dismissed in 1996.

         In 1997, the Legislature redesignated the statute as Chapter 62 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, and for the first time, made the registration requirements retroactively applicable to any "reportable conviction or adjudication occurring on or after September 1, 1970 . . . ." Act of June 1, 1997, 75th Leg., R.S., ch. 668, § 1, 1997 Tex. Gen. Laws 2253, 2260 (originally codified at Tex. Code Crim. Proc. art. 62.11) (repealed 2005). However, that legislation also included an "uncodified 'savings clause'" that limited the retroactive application to individuals who were, as of September 1, 1997, incarcerated in a penal institution or under state supervision. Act of June 1, 1997, 75th Leg., R.S., ch. 668, § 11, 1997 Tex. Gen. Laws 2253, 2264; Reynolds v. State,385 S.W.3d 93, 95-96 (Tex. App.-Waco 2012), aff'd423 S.W.3d 377 (Tex. Crim. App. 2014). That limitation on retroactivity was subsequently eliminated in 2005 when the Legislature repealed article 62.11 and enacted article 62.002, which maintained the language applying the SORP to any "reportable conviction or adjudication occurring on or after ...


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