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Jones v. Anderson

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourteenth District

May 1, 2018

HARVELLA JONES, Appellant
v.
JONATHAN ANDERSON, Appellee

          On Appeal from the County Court at Law No. 2 Fort Bend County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. 14-CCV-052079

          Panel consists of Justices Christopher, Brown, and Wise.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          TRACY CHRISTOPHER, JUSTICE

         This is an appeal from an order signed by the Honorable Olen Underwood denying plaintiff Harvella Jones's motion to recuse the Honorable Jeffery McMeans, as well as the trial court's order granting defendant Jonathan Anderson's 2016 motion to declare plaintiff Harvella Jones a vexatious litigant and requiring her to post security of $20, 000 to maintain the action against him.

         Regarding Jones's argument that Judge Underwood abused his discretion in denying, without an oral hearing, Jones's motion to recuse Judge McMeans, we conclude that the denial without a hearing was authorized by Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 18a(g)(3)(A).

         As for the vexatious-litigant ruling, the record shows that Anderson moved to declare Jones a vexatious litigant on the alternative grounds that (a) she had represented herself in at least five litigations in the preceding seven years that had been decided against her, and (b) a state court had declared her to be a vexatious litigant in 2014 in a proceeding based on the same facts. On appeal, Jones contends that the trial court erred in allegedly refusing to allow her to present evidence and argument at the hearing on Anderson's motion, but the record shows only that the trial court rejected her attempts to argue that the 2014 vexatious-litigant ruling was erroneous. As the trial court explained, it could not retry the 2014 vexatious-litigant motion filed by Anderson's co-defendants, which already had been appealed and affirmed. Because the 2014 vexatious-litigant ruling is final and is not subject to further review, we conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to permit Jones to further pursue a futile argument or in granting Anderson's 2016 motion to declare her a vexatious litigant.

         We affirm the trial court's judgment.

         I. Background

         In 2002, the Villages of Town Center Owners Association voted to annex two new sections into the subdivision. The next year, Jones bought property in one of the new sections, believing it was part of the subdivision. Shortly thereafter, Jones began a series of lawsuits contesting the annexation and seeking to recover damages in the amount of the assessments paid to the homeowners' association. The present suit is a continuation of that effort.

         A. Jones I

         In 2005, Jones filed Jones v. Villages of Town Center Owners Ass'n, Inc., Cause No. 05-CV-140570 in the 240th District Court, Fort Bend County ("Jones I"). Jones alleged that there was no quorum for the homeowners' association's July 16, 2002, annual meeting and, therefore, "the annexation of new sections 5 and 6 into the Villages of Town Center Subdivision did not occur." The trial court rendered final judgment that the quorum requirement was satisfied.

         B. Jones II and Jones III

         In 2006, Jones sued the homeowners' association a second time in Cause No. 06-CV-148537 ("Jones II"). The judgment from that case is not in the record, and although Jones appealed the judgment, the appeal was dismissed. See Jones v. Vills. of Town Ctr. Owners Ass'n, Inc., No. 01-06-01176-CV, 2007 WL 1775999, at *1 (Tex. App.-Houston [1st Dist.] June 21, 2007, no pet.) (per curiam) (mem. op.) ("Jones III").

         C. Jones IV and Jones V

         Jones sued the homeowners' association a third time in 2011 in Cause No. 11-DCV-192143 ("Jones IV"), again alleging that the homeowners' association had insufficient votes to pass the annexation at the 2002 annual meeting. The homeowners' association moved for summary judgment on the ground of res judicata, arguing that the question of whether sections 5 and 6 were properly annexed into the subdivision was decided against Jones in the 2005 case of Jones I. The trial court granted the motion, and we affirmed. See Jones v. Vills. of Town Ctr. Owners Ass'n, Inc., No. 14-12-00306-CV, 2013 WL 2456873, at *1 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] June 6, 2013, pet. denied) ("Jones V").

         D. Jones VI, VII, and VIII

         In 2014, Jones filed Jones VI, Cause No. 14-CCV-052079, against the law firm and attorneys who represented the homeowners' association in earlier litigation. The defendants were Thi "Nina" Tran, James H. Leeland, Marc D. Markel, Clayton R. Hearn, Amy M. VanHoose, Dawn S. Holiday, Clinton Faver Brown, Jonathan Anderson, and Roberts Markel Weinberg Butler Hailey PC a/k/a Roberts Markel Weinberg PC a/k/a Roberts Markel PC a/k/a Roberts Markel Guerry, PC ("Roberts Markel"). Jones again alleged that the 2002 annexation failed, and she claimed that the defendants conspired with the homeowners' association to defraud Jones by concealing and misrepresenting the true count of the proxy votes at the 2002 annual meeting. Jones alleged that she discovered the true proxy count on her own in 2009.

         Defendants Markel, Hearn, VanHoose, Holiday, Brown and Roberts Markel ("the Markel defendants") moved to have the trial court declare Jones a vexatious litigant and to require her to post security to maintain her claims against them. See Tex. Civ. Prac, & Rem. Code Ann. § 11.051 (West 2017). The defendants argued that (1) there was no reasonable probability that Jones would prevail in the litigation against them because her claims were barred by res judicata and by limitations; and (2) in the seven years preceding the motion, Jones represented herself in at least five civil actions that were finally determined against her. See id. § 11.054(1)(A). The trial court granted the motion in March 2014 and required Jones to post security of $20, 000. See id. § 11.055(a) ("A court shall order the plaintiff to furnish security for the benefit of the moving defendant if the court, after hearing the evidence on the motion, determines that the plaintiff is a vexatious litigant."). Jones appealed the ruling declaring her to be a vexatious litigant, and we affirmed the trial court's ruling. See Jones v. Markel, No. 14-14-002165-CV, 2015 WL 3878261 (Tex. App.- Houston [14th Dist.] June 23, 2015, pet. denied) (mem. op.) ("Jones VII").

          More than two years after the trial court granted the motion to declare her a vexatious litigant, Jones moved to recuse the trial judge, the Honorable Jeffery McMeans, on the ground that his 2014 vexatious-litigant ruling demonstrated his bias against her. Judge McMeans declined to recuse himself voluntarily, and the Honorable Olen Underwood, Presiding Judge of the Second Administrative Judicial Region of Texas, denied the motion without a hearing. A week later, the trial court dismissed and severed Jones's claims against all of the ...


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