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Ex parte Bhardwaj

Court of Appeals of Texas, Tenth District

May 15, 2019

EX PARTE TARUN BHARDWAJ

          From the 272nd District Court Brazos County, Texas Trial Court No. 16-03580-CRF-272

          Before Chief Justice Gray, Justice Davis, and Justice Neill

          OPINION

          TOM GRAY, CHIEF JUSTICE

         This is an original habeas corpus proceeding filed in an intermediate appellate court in Texas. The initial question in this proceeding is whether it is properly characterized as a pretrial habeas corpus proceeding from a pending criminal case or whether it is a habeas corpus proceeding challenging a confinement for some reason other than due to a pending criminal proceeding, specifically a civil proceeding.

         If this is a pretrial petition for a writ of habeas corpus from detention for a criminal proceeding, we do not have jurisdiction of it. On the other hand, we do have jurisdiction of some original habeas corpus proceedings if, among other criteria, they are properly characterized as civil proceedings.

         Bhardwaj's detention clearly started as a criminal proceeding. His competency to stand trial was raised. It was determined that he was not, at that time, competent to stand trial.

         Bhardwaj had been detained for a substantial length of time before he filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus with this Court. The Court was concerned that a pretrial detention to determine competency had been, or should be, converted to a civil commitment proceeding of some type rather than proceed as a pretrial detention in a criminal proceeding that could not be brought to a conclusion because the defendant was not competent to stand trial and could thus potentially become involuntary restraint without judicial review.

         The Court asked the parties to address our concerns. Responding to our expressed concerns as it related to the question of our jurisdiction the State filed a comprehensive brief.[1] The brief documents the extensive factual and procedural history in the trial court and commitment proceedings. The brief then reviews the applicable law and again urged the State's motion to dismiss. The motion to dismiss, as does the brief, argues that because this is a pretrial petition for a writ of habeas corpus in a pending criminal proceeding, this intermediate appellate court has no jurisdiction. The motion thus seeks dismissal for want of jurisdiction. We requested and received a response to the motion to dismiss from Bhardwaj.

         After due consideration of the State's brief, the State's motion to dismiss, Bhardwaj's response to the motion to dismiss, the record before us, and conducting our own legal research, we agree with the State that the petition for a writ of habeas corpus, filed while a criminal complaint/indictment is pending against the defendant but after a determination of incompetency to stand trial during the period of time prior to a jury trial on that issue, nevertheless remains a criminal proceeding over which this Court does not have jurisdiction.

         Accordingly we grant the State's motion and dismiss this proceeding for want of jurisdiction.

         Appeal dismissed.

         APPENDIX

         STATE'S RESPONSE TO APPLICATION FOR WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS

         NOW COMES THE STATE OF TEXAS by and through her prosecuting attorney and in opposition of the Application for Writ of Habeas Corpus respectfully states the following to the Court based on its information and belief:

         I.

         The procedural history of Bhardwaj's case is long and complicated. This is mostly due to (a) the fact that Bhardwaj has frequently changed attorneys throughout the proceedings, (b) Bhardwaj has refused to cooperate with the district court's inquiry into the matter of his competency to stand trial, (c) Bhardwaj has taken the unusual position of opposing any finding that he is incompetent to stand trial in spite of the recommendations and ...


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