Court of Appeals of Texas, Thirteenth District, Corpus Christi-Edinburg
Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus.
Justices Rodriguez, Contreras, and Benavides
Abraham Quintanilla III filed a petition for writ of habeas
corpus arguing that the trial court erred by revoking his
community supervision and ordering him committed to the
county jail for his failure to timely pay court-ordered child
support. We will conclude that the commitment order is void
because it was not supported by evidence establishing that
relator violated the terms of community supervision.
Accordingly, we will grant the petition as stated herein.
2000, relator was ordered to pay monthly child support to
Summer Clary Salman for their child, who was born in 1999. In
February 2012, the trial court rendered an agreed order
finding relator in contempt for failure to timely make the
child support payments and stating that relator was $51, 000
in arrears as of December 1, 2011. The agreed order committed
relator to the county jail for 180 days, but stated that
relator may purge his contempt by timely remittance of the
current and past support payments. On August 8, 2012, the
trial court rendered an order finding relator $43, 570 in
arrears as of June 30, 2012. The order suspended the prior
180-day commitment and imposed community supervision for 120
months. See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. §§
157.211-.217 (West, Westlaw through 2017 R.S.). The terms and
conditions of community supervision included a requirement
that relator pay current and past child support as ordered.
March 21, 2017, Salman filed a motion to revoke alleging that
relator violated the terms of his community supervision. A
warrant for relator's arrest was issued on May 9, 2017.
Later, the OAG intervened in the case and alleged that
relator was $87, 587.48 in arrears as of July 11, 2017.
Relator's counsel filed a notice of appearance on July
27, 2017, stating that relator had not been served with any
pleading and requesting that the court recall or vacate the
arrest warrant. At a hearing on August 4, 2017, relator did
not appear personally but was represented by counsel. The
trial court declined to recall or vacate the arrest warrant
and orally instructed the parties to re-appear on August 16,
the August 16, 2017 hearing, at which relator appeared
personally, relator, Salman, and the OAG announced that they
had reached a settlement under which relator agreed to pay
the full amount of child support owed, excluding interest
accruing since August 1, 2017, as well as attorney's fees
and the child's unpaid medical expenses. The trial court
indicated that it would accept the agreement but nevertheless
found that relator had violated the terms of his community
supervision and ordered him immediately committed to the
county jail. The trial court's written order states that
relator was committed to the county jail "for 180 days,
or as further ordered by this Court."
original proceeding followed. See Tex. Gov't
Code Ann. § 22.221(d) (West, Westlaw through 2017 R.S.)
(providing that a court of appeals has concurrent
jurisdiction with the Texas Supreme Court to issue writs of
habeas corpus in cases were a relator's liberty is
restrained "by virtue of an order, process, or
commitment issued by a court or judge because of the
violation of an order, judgment, or decree previously made,
rendered, or entered by the court or judge in a civil
purpose of a habeas corpus proceeding is not to determine the
ultimate guilt or innocence of the relator, but only to
ascertain whether the relator has been unlawfully confined.
Ex parte Gordon, 584 S.W.2d 686, 688 (Tex. 1979);
In re Mann, 162 S.W.3d 429, 432 (Tex. App.-Fort
Worth 2005, orig. proceeding). A writ of habeas corpus will
be issued if the order underlying the contempt order is void
or if the contempt order itself is void. See Ex parte
Shaffer, 649 S.W.2d 300, 302 (Tex. 1983) (orig.
proceeding). In a habeas corpus proceeding, the order or
judgment being challenged is presumed to be valid. In re
R.E.D., 278 S.W.3d 850, 855 (Tex. App.-Houston [1st
Dist.] 2009, orig. proceeding); In re Turner, 177
S.W.3d 284, 288 (Tex. App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 2005, orig.
proceeding). To obtain relief by habeas corpus, the relator
must establish that the underlying order is void because of a
lack of jurisdiction or because the relator was deprived of
liberty without due process of law. In re Henry, 154
S.W.3d 594, 596 (Tex. 2005) (orig. proceeding) (per curiam);
Ex parte Merrikh, 361 S.W.3d 209, 210 (Tex.
App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2012, orig. proceeding) (per
curiam); In re Turner, 177 S.W.3d at 288; In re
Butler, 45 S.W.3d 268, 270 (Tex. App.-Houston [1st
Dist.] 2001, orig. proceeding). The relator bears the burden
of showing that he is entitled to relief. In re
Munks, 263 S.W.3d 270, 272-73 (Tex. App.-Houston [1st
Dist.] 2007, orig. proceeding); In re Turner, 177
S.W.3d at 288.
judgment of contempt without support in the evidence is void.
Ex parte Davila, 718 S.W.2d 281, 282 (Tex. 1986);
Ex parte Williams, 690 S.W.2d 243, 244 (Tex. 1985);
Ex parte Green, 603 S.W.2d 216 (Tex. 1980).