Court of Appeals of Texas, Sixth District, Texarkana
Submitted: March 14, 2019
Appeal from the 126th District Court Travis County, Texas
Trial Court No. D-1-GN-14-001313
Morriss, C.J., Burgess and Stevens, JJ.
E. STEVENS, JUSTICE
trial court dismissed Trent Alvon Smith's lawsuit
pursuant to Chapter 14 of the Texas Civil Practice and
Remedies Code, finding that the indigent inmate's suit
was not timely filed. See Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem.
Code Ann. §§ 14.001-.014 (West 2017). Smith filed this
appeal arguing that the trial court erred because his
petition was filed in Travis County, Texas, in January 2014,
and it "relates back" to his previous filing of the
same lawsuit in May 2011 in Walker County, Texas.
Smith failed to timely file his lawsuit, we affirm the trial
claimed that he was injured on February 3, 2011, when the
State vehicle in which he was being transported collided with
another State vehicle. Smith sought relief through the
grievance system, and he received a final denial of his
grievance on or about May 10, 2011. Eight days later, Smith
mailed his petition and its attachments to the Walker County
District Clerk's Office. Even so, the clerk did not file
the petition. In a letter dated May 20, 2011, the clerk
returned Smith's unfiled petition to him and informed him
that she could not accept his petition for filing until he
paid the $504.84 in outstanding costs assessed against him in
a prior, unrelated case that had been dismissed as
January 15, 2014, Smith filed the petition in a Travis County
district court. The State answered and moved to dismiss
the lawsuit, arguing in part that, under Section 14.005(b),
the court had to dismiss the lawsuit because Smith failed to
file it within thirty-one days of receiving the written
decision from the grievance system. The trial court granted
the State's motion and dismissed Smith's petition.
sole point of error on appeal, Smith argues that the trial
court erred in dismissing his lawsuit because his 2014 filing
in Travis County related back to his attempted filing in
Walker County in 2011.
14 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code governs
suits brought by an inmate in which the inmate files an
indigence affidavit. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann.
§ 14.002(a). Before filing suit, inmates must exhaust
their administrative remedies through a grievance system.
Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 14.005. After
receiving a written decision from the grievance system, an
inmate must file his lawsuit within thirty-one days, or the
trial court will dismiss the suit as untimely. Tex. Civ.
Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 14.005(b).
avoid dismissal, Smith had until June 9, 2011, to file his
suit. See Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann.
§ 14.005(b). But Smith's lawsuit was not filed until
January 15, 2014, several years after the expiration of the
thirty-one-day deadline. See id. Smith argues that,
under Rule 5 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, commonly
known as the mailbox rule, his lawsuit was timely filed by
operation of law in May 2011, because his suit was properly
deposited in the mail on or before the deadline and sent
"to the proper clerk" in Walker County. He contends
that his 2014 filing in Travis County "relates
back" to his attempted filing in Walker County in 2011.
petition was never filed in Walker County because, under
Section 14.011(a), the district clerk could not accept his
petition for filing until the previously assessed costs and
fees were paid.See Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem.
Code Ann. § 14.011(a) ("[A] clerk of a court may
not accept for filing another claim by the inmate until the
fees and costs assessed under Section 14.006 are
paid."). When provisions of Section 14.011(a) conflict
with the mailbox rule, Section 14.011(a) prevails because it
is a later, more specific statute. See Tex.
Gov't Code Ann. §§ 311.025, 312.014 (West
2013); see Tex. Lottery Comm'n v. First State Bank of
DeQueen, 325 S.W.3d 628, 637 (Tex. 2010). Here, there is
no indication in the record that ...