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In re Coffey

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourteenth District

April 5, 2018

IN RE WILLIAM EARLE COFFEY, JR., ET AL, Relators

          ORIGINAL PROCEEDING WRIT OF MANDAMUS 165th District Court Harris County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. 2017-62696

          Panel consists of Justices Busby, Brown, and Jewell.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          PER CURIAM

         On February 13, 2018, relators William Earle Coffey, Jr., Landon B. Marino, Travis Lyn Knapp, and Shawn Lewis Walker filed a petition for writ of mandamus in this court. See Tex. Gov't Code Ann. § 22.221 (West Supp. 2017); see also Tex. R. App. P. 52. In the petition, relator asks this court to compel the Honorable Ursula Hall, presiding judge of the 165th District Court of Harris County, to rule on relators' motion to confirm an arbitration award.

         Because Respondent, under the circumstances of this case, has not ruled the motion within a reasonable time, we conditionally grant the petition for writ of mandamus.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         On or about September 11, 2014, relators commenced an arbitration action against UBS Financial Services, Inc. ("UBS") pursuant the FINRA Code of Arbitration Procedure. Relators sought relief in the form of an award from an arbitration panel ordering the expungement of customer complaints against relators from the public record.

         On May 30, 2017, the arbitration panel held final hearings. On July 18, 2017, the panel issued a final award, which recommended that the customer complaints against relators be expunged from their records.

         Relators filed a motion to confirm the arbitration award and enter judgment on September 21, 2017. UBS filed a response to the motion stating it did not oppose confirmation of the award.

         On November 20, 2017, the motion was submitted to Respondent by written submission. Relators have made several requests for a ruling and even requested a hearing on the motion, but were told by the clerk that no oral hearing would be permitted.

         Mandamus Standard

         When a motion is properly filed and pending before a trial court, the act of giving consideration to and ruling on that motion is a ministerial act.[1] A trial court has a ministerial duty to consider and rule on motions properly filed and pending before it, and mandamus may issue to compel the trial court to act. In re Henry, 525 S.W.3d 381 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2017, orig. proceeding); In re Greater McAllen Star Props., Inc., 444 S.W.3d 743, 748 (Tex. App.-Corpus Christi 2014, orig. proceeding). A trial court is required to rule on a motion within a reasonable time after the motion has been submitted to the court for a ruling or a ruling on the motion has been requested. In re Foster, 503 S.W.3d 606, 607 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2016, orig. proceeding). The record must show both that the motion was filed and the trial court has not ruled on the motion within a reasonable time after being requested to do so. Id. at 607.

         Analysis

         The record shows that relators' motion to confirm the arbitration award is unopposed and has been pending for more than four months (since November 20, 2017). Despite several requests, Respondent has yet to rule. The record shows no reason for Respondent's delay in ruling on the motion. Relators claim that Respondent's delay in ruling is causing them substantial harm because the customer complaints on their records which the arbitration panel has ordered to be expunged continue to be made public. We conclude, under the circumstances of this case, where the motion is unopposed and it appears that the delay in ruling is prejudicing relators, that Respondent has abused her discretion by not ruling on the motion within a reasonable time. See Rowe v. Watkins, No. 08-09-00001-CV, 2009 WL 2623353, at *2 (Tex. App.-El Paso, 2009) (mem. op.) (holding that trial court's delay of three months in ...


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