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Walker v. Gutierrez

Court of Appeals of Texas, Third District, Austin

June 21, 2018

Freddie Lee Walker, Appellant
v.
David Gutierrez, Chairman, Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, Appellee

          FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF TRAVIS COUNTY, 353RD JUDICIAL DISTRICT NO. D-1-GN-15-005106, HONORABLE RHONDA HURLEY, 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 David Gutierrez, Chairman of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles (TBPP), seeking to compel the TBPP 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 TBPP. Gutierrez filed a plea to the jurisdiction. The district court granted the plea, and Walker appeals. We affirm the district court's order granting Gutierrez's plea to the jurisdiction.

         DISCUSSION [2]

         Walker brings four issues on appeal, none of which demonstrate reversible error.[3]In his first through third related issues, Walker contends that the district court erred in (a) granting Gutierrez's plea to the jurisdiction because Gutierrez had not first filed a timely answer to his petition, (b) dismissing his petition "with prejudice, " and (c) failing to grant him a no-answer default judgment.[4] We review a court's ruling on a plea to the jurisdiction de novo. Texas Dep't of Parks & Wildlife v. Miranda, 133 S.W.3d 217, 226 (Tex. 2004). If the pleadings affirmatively demonstrate an incurable jurisdictional defect, then the plea to the jurisdiction must be granted with prejudice. See id. at 227-28.

         In his plea to the jurisdiction, Gutierrez correctly asserted that the district court "lacks mandamus jurisdiction over Walker's petition" because a 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 . . . ."). This is an incurable jurisdictional defect, and we accordingly conclude that the district court properly granted the plea and dismissed Walker's petition with prejudice.

         With respect to Walker's specific complaints about his alleged entitlement to take a no-answer default judgment because Gutierrez allegedly did not file a "timely" answer, we conclude that any such complaint is ultimately moot or harmless because it nonetheless remains that dismissal of Walker's petition was proper for lack of jurisdiction. 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 fourth and final issue, Walker asserts that the district court abused its discretion in failing to timely rule on Gutierrez's previously filed Rule 91a motion.[5] See Tex. R. Civ. P. 91a.3 (providing that motion to dismiss must be "granted or denied within 45 days" after it is filed). However, not only has Walker failed to identify how he was harmed by the district court's failure to rule on the motion within 45 days, we are also informed by this Court's previous holding that the 45-day period is discretionary rather than mandatory. See Koenig v. Blaylock, 497 S.W.3d 595, 599 (Tex. App.-Austin 2016, pet. denied). Accordingly, we overrule Walker's fourth issue.

         CONCLUSION

         We affirm the district court's order granting Gutierrez's plea to the jurisdiction and dismissing Walker's petition with prejudice.

         Affirmed

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