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Hoffman v. Gonzalez

Court of Appeals of Texas, Thirteenth District, Corpus Christi-Edinburg

May 23, 2019

FRED HOFFMAN, TDCJ #2031979, Appellant,
v.
ADRIANA GONZALEZ, ET AL., Appellees.

          On appeal from the 343rd District Court of Bee County, Texas.

          Before Chief Justice Contreras and Justices Longoria and Perkes.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Dori Contreras, Chief Justice.

         Appellant Fred Hoffman appeals a judgment dismissing his claims against appellees Adriana Gonzalez, Corey Furr, Kristine Zambrano, Yolanda Martin, and Grievance Investigator #I2229. By four issues, which we construe as two, appellant argues the trial court erred when: (1) it did not hold a hearing on his motion to reinstate, and (2) it dismissed his claims as frivolous without holding a hearing. We affirm.

         I. Background

         Appellant is an inmate housed in the McConnell Unit of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in Beeville, Texas. On February 12, 2018, appellant sued appellees in their individual and official capacities. Appellant alleged Gonzalez filed a false disciplinary action against him in retaliation for an affidavit he wrote about an alleged incident between Gonzalez and another inmate. Appellant further alleged that the remaining appellees (Martine, Furr, and Grievance Investigator #I2229) assisted and encouraged Gonzalez in a fraudulent disciplinary action because appellant had previously filed grievances and lawsuits against them. Appellant alleged causes of action against appellees for "participatory liability," retaliation, fraud, and violations of the Equal Protection Clause.

         By written order, the trial court invited the Texas Attorney General's Office (the AG's Office) to file an amicus curiae advisory. The AG's Office filed an amicus curiae advisory arguing, among other things, that appellant failed to include in his affidavit the operative facts of the suits he previously filed. Without holding a hearing, the trial court rendered a final judgment dismissing appellant's claims as frivolous for a failure to comply with Chapter 14 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code. This appeal followed.

         II. Motion To Reinstate

         By his first issue, appellant argues that the trial court erred when it did not hold a hearing on his motion to reinstate. After the trial court dismissed his suit as frivolous for failure to comply with Chapter 14 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, appellant filed a motion to reinstate pursuant to Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 165a. Rule 165a is titled "Dismissal for Want of Prosecution." Tex.R.Civ.P. 165a. Rule 165a(1) gives the trial court power to dismiss for want of prosecution when a party or its counsel fail to appear at a hearing or trial. Maida v. Fire Ins. Exch., 990 S.W.2d 836, 840-41 (Tex. App.-Fort Worth 1999, no pet.); see Tex. R. Civ. P. 165a(1). Rule 165a(3)'s standard for reinstatement only applies to cases dismissed for failure to appear. See Maida, 990 S.W.3d at 840; Burton v. Hoffman, 959 S.W.2d 351, 354 (Tex. App.-Austin 1998, no pet.). Here, appellant's case was dismissed pursuant to chapter 14, not for want of prosecution; therefore, a motion to reinstate under Rule 165a was inapplicable to his case, and the trial court did not err when it did not hold a hearing on the motion. See Tex. R. Civ. P. 165a; see also Stone v. Tolerton, No. 12-08-00127-CV, 2008 WL 5235630, at *3 (Tex. App.-Tyler Dec. 17, 2008, no pet.) (mem. op.) (concluding Rule 165a is inapplicable when a case is dismissed pursuant to chapter 14).

         We overrule appellant's first issue.

         III. Frivolous Claims

         By his second issue, appellant argues that the trial court erred when it dismissed his claims as frivolous without holding a hearing.

         We review a dismissal under Chapter 14 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code for an abuse of discretion. Jackson v. Tex. Dep't of Criminal Justice-Institutional Div., 28 S.W.3d 811, 813 (Tex. App.-Corpus Christi-Edinburg 2000, pet. denied); see Spurlock v. Schroedter, 88 S.W.3d 733, 736 (Tex. App.-Corpus Christi-Edinburg 2002, no pet.). A trial court abuses its discretion if it acts arbitrarily, capriciously, and without reference to any guiding rules or principles. See Jackson, 28 S.W.3d at 813. We will affirm a dismissal if it is proper under any legal theory. Hamilton v. Pechacek, 319 S.W.3d 801, 809 (Tex. App.-Fort Worth 2010, no pet.); Birdo v. Ament, 814 S.W.2d 808, 810 (Tex. App.-Waco 1991, writ denied).

         Chapter 14 governs suits, such as this one, brought by an inmate who has filed an affidavit or unsworn declaration of inability to pay costs.[1]See Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 14.002; see also id. §§ 14.001-.014. In such a case, the trial court may dismiss a claim at any time upon finding that the claim is frivolous or malicious. Id. § 14.003(a)(2). In determining whether a suit is frivolous or malicious, the trial court may consider, among other things, whether the claim is substantially similar to an inmate's previous claim by analyzing whether the claim arises from the same operative facts as a previous one. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 14.003(b)(4); Obadele v. Johnson, 60 S.W.3d 345, 348 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th ...


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