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Walker v. Jenkins

Court of Appeals of Texas, Third District, Austin

June 21, 2018

Freddie Lee Walker, Appellant
v.
Stuart Jenkins, Director of the Parole Division, Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Appellee

          FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF TRAVIS COUNTY, 353RD JUDICIAL DISTRICT NO. D-1-GN-15-005106, HONORABLE AMY CLARK MEACHUM, JUDGE PRESIDING

          Before Justices Puryear, Pemberton, and Bourland

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          DAVID PURYEAR, JUSTICE

         Freddie Lee Walker, an inmate in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's Institutional Division, filed a petition for writ of mandamus against respondent Stuart Jenkins, Director of the Parole Division of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (Parole Division), seeking to compel the Parole Division to "immediately conduct a parole review" of his case and to "provide clear and concise reasons for the approval or denial of parole, " alleging various statutory and constitutional violations by the Parole Division. Jenkins filed a Rule 91a motion to dismiss Walker's petition. See Tex. R. Civ. P. 91a (permitting party to file motion to dismiss cause of action on grounds that it has no basis in law or fact). The district court granted the motion, and Walker appeals. We affirm the order granting Jenkins's motion to dismiss.

         DISCUSSION [[2]]

         Walker brings six issues on appeal, none of which demonstrate reversible error.[3]In his first, third, fourth, and fifth related issues, Walker complains that the district court erred in (a)granting Jenkins's motion because Jenkins had not first filed an answer to his petition[4] and (b)failing to grant him a no-answer default judgment.[5] We review a court's ruling on a Rule 91a motion de novo. See City of Dallas v. Sanchez, 494 S.W.3d 722, 724 (Tex. 2016) (per curiam); Koenig v. Blaylock, 497 S.W.3d 595, 598 (Tex. App.-Austin 2016, pet. denied); see also Tex. R. Civ. P. 91a.1 ("A cause of action has no basis in law if the allegations, taken as true, together with inferences reasonably drawn from them, do not entitle the claimant to the relief sought.").

         In his Rule 91a motion, Jenkins correctly asserted that Walker's petition has no basis in law because the district court's mandamus jurisdiction is limited to the enforcement of its own jurisdiction and does not extend to the exercise of supervisory control over state prison officials. See Sims v. Smith, No. 03-12-00242-CV, 2014 WL 2094200, at *1 (Tex. App.-Austin May 14, 2014, no pet.) (mem. op.) ("A district court has no constitutional or statutory jurisdiction to exercise supervisory control over prison officials." (quoting Martinez v. Thaler, 931 S.W.2d 45, 46 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 1996, writ denied))); Bonfanti v. Texas Dep't of Criminal Justice Institutional Div., No. 03-12-00350-CV, 2013 WL 4487526, at *1 (Tex. App.-Austin Aug. 16, 2013, pet. denied) (mem. op.) (holding that district court lacked mandamus jurisdiction over inmate's petition seeking to compel prison officials to release him on parole); see also Tex. Const. art. V, § 8 ("District Court judges shall have the power to issue writs necessary to enforce their jurisdiction."); Tex. Gov't Code § 24.011 (authorizing district court judges to grant writs of mandamus "necessary to the enforcement of the court's jurisdiction"); cf. Tex. Gov't Code § 22.002(c) ("Only the supreme court has the authority to issue a writ of mandamus . . . against any of the officers of the executive departments of the government of this state . . . ."). Jenkins also correctly asserted that Texas law does not create any protected liberty interest in parole.[6] See Vargas v. Texas Dep't of Criminal Justice, No. 03-12-00119-CV, 2012 WL 5974078, at *4 (Tex. App.-Austin Nov. 30, 2012, pet. denied) (mem. op.) (quoting Tex. Gov't Code § 508.001(6)). Accordingly, we conclude that the district court properly granted Jenkins's motion and dismissed Walker's petition.

         With respect to Walker's specific complaints about his alleged entitlement to take a no-answer default judgment before the district court ruled on the Rule 91a motion, we conclude that any such complaint is ultimately moot or harmless because it nonetheless remains that dismissal was proper under Rule 91a. See Boone v. Gutierrez, No. 03-16-00259-CV, 2017 WL 3122798, at *2 (Tex. App.-Austin July 19, 2017, no pet.) (mem. op.).

         In his second issue, Walker asserts that the district judge who conducted the hearing on the Rule 91a motion erred in "exchanging benches" with another district judge, apparently challenging the Travis County District Courts' "central docket" system. However, district courts are authorized to operate on central-docket systems, see Tex. Const. art. V, §11 (authorizing district judges to "exchange districts, or hold courts for each other"); Tex.R.Civ.P. 3a (allowing district courts to make local rules), and the Travis County District Courts have duly passed local rules permitting the operation of a rotating central-docket system, see Travis Cty. Dist. Ct. Loc. R. 1.2 (all civil cases other than those on specialized dockets are set on Central Docket), 1.3 (any district judge may conduct hearing). Moreover, Walker has not identified any harm he has suffered as a result of the central-docket system. Accordingly, we overrule his second issue.

         In his sixth and final issue, Walker asserts that the district court abused its discretion in not "hearing" or granting his motion for new trial. To the extent that he complains that the district court did not provide him a hearing on his new-trial motion, he has not demonstrated that his motion presented any question of fact that necessitated a hearing. See Boone, 2017 WL 3122798, at *2 (citing Soto v. General Foam & Plastics Corp., 458 S.W.3d 78, 85 (Tex. App.-El Paso 2014, no pet.)). As for his contention that the district court erred in not granting his new-trial motion and allowing it to be overruled by operation of law-a ruling that we review for an abuse of discretion, see Cliff v. Huggins, 724 S.W.2d 778, 778-79 (Tex. 1987)-we determine that the district court did not abuse its discretion, as Walker's motion did not assert any issues that we have not already determined are meritless. We accordingly overrule his sixth issue.

         CONCLUSION

         We affirm the district court's order granting Jenkins's Rule 91a motion to dismiss Walker's petition for writ of mandamus.

         Affirmed.

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