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Phillips v. Federal National Mortgage Association

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fifth District, Dallas

January 17, 2018


         On Appeal from the County Court at Law No. 2 Dallas County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. CC-16-04279-B

          Before Justices Bridges, Myers, and Schenck Opinion by Justice Bridges



         In this forcible detainer action, appellant Agnes Phillips appeals the trial court's judgment in favor of appellee Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae). On appeal, she appears to challenge underlying summary judgments previously decided against her in this Court[1] and whether she received adequate notice pursuant to section 24.005 of the Texas Property Code to vacate the Property at issue. After liberally construing Phillip's pro se amended appellate brief, we conclude she has not shown reversible error and affirm the trial court's judgment.


         In 2006, Phillips purchased the Property at issue by obtaining a loan secured by a deed of trust. In February 2011, she filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy. The bankruptcy case was dismissed and reinstated multiple times.

         After a December 2013 bankruptcy dismissal, Nationstar Mortgage LLC sent Phillips a notice of acceleration and substitute trustee's sale for the Property. On January 7, 2014, Nationstar purchased the Property at issue for $178, 093.86. Nationstar conveyed the property to Fannie Mae by warranty deed on January 30, 2014.

         Fannie Mae initiated eviction proceedings in early January 2015. Phillips then filed suit seeking to quiet title to the Property and to enjoin the eviction proceedings. Nationstar and Fannie Mae filed a traditional and no-evidence motion for summary judgment arguing Phillips received proper notices and the automatic bankruptcy stay was not in effect at the time of the necessary foreclosure proceedings and the foreclosure sale. Phillips did not respond to these motions, and the trial court granted judgment in favor of Nationstar and Fannie Mae. Phillips appealed the summary judgments arguing the property was listed in her bankruptcy filing as her homestead, and "she assumed it was protected from foreclosure."

         While that case was pending on appeal in this Court, [2] Fannie Mae sent Phillips a notice to vacate and demand for possession on June 17, 2016. After Phillips refused to vacate, Fannie Mae filed its original petition for forcible detainer on August 26, 2016.

         During trial, Fannie Mae offered into evidence, without objection, the following documents: (1) certified copy of the deed of trust; (2) certified copy of trustee's deed from the 2014 foreclosure sale; (3) certified copy of the warranty deed conveying property from Nationstar to Fannie Mae; and (4) Fannie Mae's June 17, 2016 notice to vacate and demand for possession.

         Phillips testified in her own defense that she was the owner of the Property, but when Nationstar foreclosed on the Property, she was in bankruptcy. She asked the trial court to stay the current litigation until this Court resolved the underlying appeal. Fannie Mae argued the deed of trust contained a tenant-at-sufferance clause; therefore, her argument regarding title of the Property did not impact the court's ability to determine possession. The trial court took the matter under advisement, but signed a judgment of possession in favor of Fannie Mae on October 19, 2016. Phillips now appeals the trial court's order granting Fannie Mae possession of the Property.


         Phillips is not represented by counsel on appeal. We construe liberally pro se pleadings and briefs. However, we hold pro se litigants to the same standards as licensed attorneys and require them to comply with applicable laws and rules of procedure. In re N.E.B., 251 S.W.3d 211, 211-12 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2008, no pet.) (citing Mansfield State Bank v. Cohn, 573 S.W.2d 181, 184-85 (Tex. 1978)); see also Tex. R. App. P. 38.9 (briefing rules construed liberally). To do otherwise would give a pro se litigant an unfair advantage over a litigant who is represented by counsel. In re N.E.B., 251 S.W.3d at 212.

         This Court notified Phillips of several deficiencies in her original brief and she filed an amended brief correcting some, but not all, of the defects. Much of Phillips' brief seemingly reargues summary judgment and bankruptcy issues previously decided by this Court. [3]See Phillips, 2017 WL 1908621, at*1. Because we have previously decided these issues, we need not address them again. See Hudson v. Wakefield, 711 S.W.2d 628, 630 (Tex. 1986) (initial determination of questions of law generally govern case throughout subsequent stages under "law of the ...

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