MOST WORSHIPFUL PRINCE HALL GRAND LODGE OF TEXAS AND JURISDICTION FREE AND ACCEPTED MASONS AND TRUE LEVEL LODGE 226, PRINCE HALL AFFILIATE, Appellants
TRUE LEVEL MASONIC LODGE 226 501(C)(3), Appellee
Appeal from the County Civil Court at Law No. 4 Harris
County, Texas Trial Court Case No. 1082736
consists of Justices Jennings, Massengale, and Caughey.
MICHAEL MASSENGALE JUSTICE
appeal concerns a real-property dispute between a Masonic
grand lodge and former members of one of its constituent
lodges. The appeal arises from a county court at law's
judgment which purported to award possession of real property
to a new entity created by the departed former members. We
reverse and vacate the judgment, which is void for want of
jurisdiction because resolution of the case required a
determination about which party had title to the property.
case is related to a separate appeal from a Harris County
district court proceeding, True Level Masonic Lodge #226,
Inc., et al. v. Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of
Texas and Jurisdictions Free and Accepted Masons, No.
01-16-00339-CV. The district court litigation resolved a
dispute over ownership of property, including a building
located at 4212 Lyons Avenue, which also is at issue in this
case. In the district court, evidence showed that Most
Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Texas and Jurisdictions
Free and Accepted Masons (the "Grand Lodge") and
True Level Lodge #226 (the "constituent lodge")
acquired title to 4212 Lyons Avenue by warranty deed in 1952.
August, Johnnie L. Jones, Mack Prince Deshay, and Arthur C.
Mays were members and officers in the constituent lodge. They
attempted to surrender the constituent lodge's charter to
the Grand Lodge, and they formed a new lodge, True Level
Masonic Lodge 226 501(c)(3) (the "independent
lodge"). The independent lodge officers purported to
convey the property at 4212 Lyons Avenue, which had been in
the possession of the constituent lodge, to the independent
lodge by signing a special warranty deed. The Grand Lodge
voided the attempted surrender of the constituent lodge's
charter, and it expelled the independent lodge officers. Then
it sought a declaratory judgment confirming ownership of the
property which had been controlled by the constituent lodge.
The independent lodge and the expelled members filed a
trespass-to-try-title counterclaim relating to the disputed
real property, including 4212 Lyons Avenue.
jury trial, the district court granted a take-nothing
judgment on the independent lodge's counterclaim, and it
declared the constituent lodge was entitled to
"possession of all property, both real and personal, of
every kind or nature wherever situated, acquired by True
Level Lodge No. 226." It further declared that the
independent lodge and its members "have no interest in
any of the property." The independent lodge and the
expelled members appealed the district-court judgment, though
they did not appeal the take-nothing judgment on their
separate opinion issued simultaneously with this one, this
court affirmed the district-court judgment, holding that it
did not award real property to Grand Lodge, rather it merely
declared that the property in question was never transferred
to the independent lodge because the constituent lodge never
surrendered its charter, and it never ceased to exist.
True Level Masonic Lodge #226, Inc. v. Most Worshipful
Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Tex. & Jurs. Free &
Accepted Masons, No. 01-16-00339-CV (Tex. App.-Houston
[1st Dist.] April 3, 2018, no pet. h.).The court further
concluded that the pleadings informed the meaning of the
judgment and identified the property of the Grand Lodge,
which included the premises at 4212 Lyons Avenue.
four months after the independent lodge appealed the
district-court judgment, it filed a
forcible-entry-and-detainer action in the justice court. In
its pleading, it asserted that it "is the true title
owner of the premises located at 4212 Lyons Avenue"
and therefore had the right to possession of the premises.
The independent lodge attached a copy of the special warranty
deed to its petition. The Grand Lodge and its constituent
lodge generally denied the allegations, raised several
affirmative defenses, and attached a copy of the
justice court sustained a plea to the jurisdiction filed by
the Grand Lodge and its constituent lodge. The independent
lodge filed an appeal for de novo review by the county court
at law. The Grand Lodge and its constituent lodge then filed
a general denial and a motion to dismiss.
county court at law concluded that the independent lodge held
"the last deed in time for 4212 Lyons Avenue,
specifically, a Special Warranty Deed executed on July 10,
2013." The county court also noted that the
district-court judgment did not identify 4212 Lyons Avenue or
include a property description for it. Thus the court found
that the Grand Lodge and its constituent lodge did "not
have a deed that effectuates the transfer of 4212 Lyons
Avenue to them" subsequent to the March 28, 2016
Grand Lodge and the constituent lodge appealed. They argue
that the county court at law had no jurisdiction over a
forcible-entry-and-detainer suit in this case because the