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In re Hightower

Court of Appeals of Texas, Sixth District, Texarkana

September 21, 2017

IN RE: DANNY HIGHTOWER

          Submitted: September 20, 2017

         Original Habeas Proceeding

          Before Morriss, C.J., Moseley and Burgess, JJ.

          OPINION

          Bailey C. Moseley, Justice.

         Danny Hightower, relator, has filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus[1] seeking relief from the trial court's judgment of contempt and its order of commitment, both arising out of the divorce proceedings between his son, Ashley, and the real party in interest, Megan Hightower (Megan). Hightower contends that the trial court deprived him of due process (1) when it held him in contempt of a preliminary ruling of the court that had not been reduced to a written order of the court and (2) when it provided him with a show cause order that failed to put him on notice of what order he allegedly violated, how he allegedly violated the order, and that he might be held in contempt. Hightower also contends that the trial court's judgment of contempt is void because it is not based on the violation of a written order of the court. We agree that the judgment of contempt is void and therefore order that Hightower be discharged.

         I. Background

         Shortly before filing suit for divorce in August 2016, Megan and Ashley purportedly executed two warranty deeds transferring two tracts of community property to Hightower. In December 2016, Megan joined Hightower as a third party defendant in the divorce and sought recovery of the properties, to which Hightower filed an answer. On June 20, 2017, a final hearing on the divorce was held in which the trial court considered all of the issues involved in the proceeding. On June 30, 2017, the trial court sent a document with the heading

         NOTICE OF DRAFT DIVORCE TERMS NOTICE OF HEARING REGARDING RECEIVER

         (Draft Divorce Terms) to the parties. In relevant part, the Draft Divorce Terms provide:

Non-homestead Real estate to be sold by Receiver, pay [Hightower] and/or bank holding first lien. Net proceeds to be deposited in Court and divided 50% Ashley 50% Megan. Original lender to be paid to date of closing. [Hightower] to be paid actual cash paid to an original lender. Lake Lot $47, 350.65. Bogota Building $748.03. White Property $6774.93. [Hightower] is second tier creditor behind original lender, taxes and usual costs of sale.
Deeds by Ashley to Danny are voided and real estate is community owned.
. . . .
Please note that this is draft [sic], subject to revision, and dependent upon Nancy and [Hightower] agreeing to release of Megan. This is also dependent upon Attorney Stovall accepting plan of immediate sale of real estate to which they hold a valid lien against.

         On August 7, 2017, Hightower conveyed the two tracts to Dennis Cameron. On August 9, 2017, the trial court entered a show ...


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