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Padilla v. State

Court of Appeals of Texas, Third District, Austin

June 26, 2018

Guadalupe Padilla, Appellant
The State of Texas, Appellee


          Before Justices Puryear, Pemberton, and Bourland


          Bob Pemberton, Justice

         Appellant Guadalupe Padilla, an inmate proceeding pro se, has filed a notice of appeal from what he characterizes as the "denial by operation of law" of his motion to compel discovery. The State has filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that this Court lacks jurisdiction over the appeal. For the reasons that follow, we will dismiss the appeal.

         Padilla was convicted in 2002 of the offenses of aggravated sexual assault of a child and indecency with a child by contact and was sentenced to 37 and 15 years' imprisonment, respectively, for each offense. This Court affirmed his convictions on appeal.[1] In 2004, Padilla began filing requests for appointment of counsel to assist him in seeking post-conviction DNA testing.[2] After his second request for counsel was denied, this Court reversed the district court's order and held that Padilla was entitled to the appointment of counsel.[3] The district court subsequently granted Padilla's motion for DNA testing.[4] After the testing was completed in 2011, the district court concluded in its final order that "the results of the post-conviction DNA testing were not exculpatory and that it was not reasonably probable that Padilla would not have been convicted had those results been available during his trial."[5] Padilla subsequently filed six additional pro se motions for DNA testing, which the district court denied.[6] This Court affirmed the district court's order.[7]

         Padilla continued to file additional pro se motions for DNA testing and other pleadings in subsequent years.[8] Then, in November 2017, Padilla filed a "motion to compel discovery of forensic evidence / reports and request for a hearing" under the 2013 amendments to article 39.14 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, also known as the Michael Morton Act.[9] In his motion, Padilla explained that he sought production of "forensic reports taken in relation to the collection of forensic biological evidence during [the] sexual assault exam of [the] victim in this case," which Padilla claimed "would be highly probative in answering questions raised by post-conviction DNA testing." In January 2018, Padilla filed a notice of appeal, asserting that his motion had been "denied by operation of law" 75 days after it had been filed.[10]

         In its motion to dismiss, the State argues that we lack appellate jurisdiction here because there is no appealable order. We agree. "[I]n Texas, appeals by either the State or the defendant in a criminal case are permitted only when they are specifically authorized by statute."[11]Thus, "[t]he standard for determining whether an appellate court has jurisdiction to hear and determine a case 'is not whether the appeal is precluded by law, but whether the appeal is authorized by law.'"[12] In criminal cases, Texas law authorizes appeals from judgments of conviction and "appealable orders."[13] Moreover, an appealable order must be written and signed to invoke this Court's jurisdiction; oral rulings are insufficient.[14]

         Here, there is no indication in the record that the district court has acted on Padilla's motion in any manner, much less signed an order denying it. Additionally, even if the district court had denied Padilla's motion, there is no statutory provision authorizing an appeal from the denial of a motion to compel discovery filed under article 39.14.[15] Accordingly, we have no appellate jurisdiction here.[16]

         In the alternative, to the extent that Padilla's notice of appeal could be construed as a petition for writ of mandamus, asking this Court to compel the district court to rule on Padilla's motion, we would deny relief. "When a motion is properly filed and pending before a trial court, the act of giving consideration to and ruling upon that motion is a ministerial act."[17] However, a court has no duty to rule on motions filed in a case after the court's plenary power has expired.[18]In this case, the district court's plenary power expired many years before Padilla filed his motion to compel discovery. "When a conviction has been affirmed on appeal and the mandate has issued, general jurisdiction is not restored in the trial court."[19] "Once general jurisdiction has expired, and absent direction from a higher court, a trial court can act only if, and to the extent, it is authorized to do so by a specific statutory source."[20] The only statutory source that could authorize the district court to act on Padilla's motion here is the Michael Morton Act. However, that statute applies only to offenses committed on or after January 1, 2014.[21] Padilla's offenses were committed in 1994.[22]

         Accordingly, the Michael Morton Act is inapplicable here, and thus the district court has no ministerial duty to rule on Padilla's motion to compel discovery under that act.

         We grant the State's motion to dismiss and dismiss the appeal for want of jurisdiction. In the alternative, we would deny mandamus relief on the merits.[23]

         Dismissed for Want of Jurisdiction


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