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Morris v. Southern Journeys of Texas

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fifth District, Dallas

March 27, 2018


          On Appeal from the County Court at Law No. 7 Collin County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. 007-02709-2016

          Before Justices Lang, Brown, and Whitehill



         Appellant George Morris appeals the trial court's dismissal of his lawsuit for want of prosecution. In four issues, he claims the trial court erred in denying his motion for continuance, dismissing his case while discovery was pending, improperly awarding attorney's fees to appellee Southern Journeys of Texas, and failing to reinstate his case and reverse the attorney's fees award. We affirm the trial court's order of dismissal.


         Morris, a pro se litigant, sued Southern Journeys in justice court seeking damages for violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, 47 U.S.C. § 227 (2015), arising from four telemarking calls he received in June 2015. Following a bench trial, the justice court ruled in favor of Southern Journeys and ordered that Morris take nothing.

         Morris appealed to the county court at law, which notified the parties by letter dated November 28, 2016 that the case was set for trial on February 2, 2017. On January 24, 2017, Morris filed a Request for Rescheduling due to an out-of-state work-related scheduling conflict with the trial date. He also filed a Motion for Discovery, seeking leave to serve interrogatories and requests for production and admission. Morris did not request a hearing on either motion. On January 25, 2017, Southern Journeys filed a response requesting the trial court to deny the Request for Rescheduling because Morris failed to plead the necessary averments and counsel for Southern Journeys already made arrangements to travel from Georgia to Texas to defend the case. Southern Journeys further requested its travel expenses and $2000 in attorney's fees incurred in defending the case.

         On February 2, 2017, the trial court entered an order denying Morris's Request for Rescheduling and awarding Southern Journeys $2000 in attorney's fees.[1] On February 8, 2017, the trial court entered an order of dismissal in which the court granted an oral motion to dismiss made by Southern Journeys in open court and, finding that Morris failed to appear after being duly noticed of trial, dismissed the case for want of prosecution. On February 21, 2017, Morris filed a Request for New Trial, which the trial court denied by order dated February 23, 2017.

         Improper Briefing

         A pro se litigant is held to the same standards as licensed attorneys and must comply with applicable laws and rules of procedure. Strange v. Cont'l Cas. Co., 126 S.W.3d 676, 677-78 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2004, pet. denied). And, as at trial, a pro se appellant must properly present his case on appeal. Id. at 678. The rules of appellate procedure require an appellant's brief to contain "a clear and concise argument for the contentions made, with appropriate citations to authorities and to the record." Tex.R.App.P. 38.1(i). An issue on appeal unsupported by argument or citation to legal authority or the record presents nothing for us to review. Strange, 126 S.W.3d at 678. We have neither a right nor an obligation to search a record for facts or research relevant law to support an appellant's position; to do so would "improperly transform the court from neutral adjudicator to advocate." Lau v. Reeder, No. 05-14-01459-CV, 2016 WL 4371813, at *2 (Tex. App.-Dallas Aug. 16, 2016, pet. denied) (mem. op.); Bolling v. Farmers Branch Indep. Sch. Dist., 315 S.W.3d 893, 895 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2010, no pet.).

         Morris filed a brief that was not in compliance with the rules of appellate procedure. By letter, we notified him the brief was deficient and instructed him to file, within ten days, an amended brief correcting the noted deficiencies. Morris filed an amended brief, but it failed to correct several of the noted deficiencies. The amended brief lacks citations to legal authority and the record in support of Morris's argument, and the argument is little more than a statement of his issues. Because Morris's issues are unsupported by argument or appropriate citation to legal authority and the record, he has preserved nothing for our review. Strange, 126 S.W.3d at 678. Nevertheless, we will consider his issues individually to the extent possible.

         Motion for Continuance

         In his first issue, Morris argues the trial court erred in denying his Request for Rescheduling. Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 251 governs motions for continuance and provides that a motion shall not be granted except for sufficient cause supported by affidavit, consent of the parties, or by operation of law. Tex.R.Civ.P. 251; see In re A.M., 418 S.W.3d 830, 838 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2013, no pet.); Strong v. Strong, 350 S.W.3d 759, 762 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2011, pet. denied). Morris's Request for Rescheduling was not supported by affidavit, Southern Journeys did not consent to a continuance, and Morris has not explained how a continuance was required by operation of law. ...

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