Court of Appeals of Texas, Fifth District, Dallas
Appeal from the 416th Judicial District Court Collin County,
Texas, Trial Court Cause No. 416-02393-2016
Justices Schenck, Osborne, and Reichek.
Alejandro Casillas Prieto, an incarcerated federal prisoner,
appeals the trial court's take-nothing judgment in favor
of appellee, Rafael De La Garza and the trial court's
dismissal for want of prosecution against appellee Richard
Rene Alamia. Prieto claims that the trial court abused
its discretion by conducting the trial in his absence. We
affirm the trial court's judgment.
acting pro se, filed a civil lawsuit claiming legal
malpractice, breach of contract, misrepresentation, and
fraudulent concealment against Alamia and De La Garza,
attorneys Prieto had retained to represent him in a criminal
matter in federal court.
Prieto's request, the lawsuit was set for trial on
December 20, 2017. On that day, Prieto was absent from the
courtroom. The trial court noted that Prieto was
"currently incarcerated in Federal prison." The
trial court had the bailiff "call the hall for him
anyways just in case." The bailiff reported to the trial
court that when he "called the hall" he did not
receive a response from Prieto.
trial court judge stated that it had received correspondence
from Prieto "asking several times for appointment of
counsel." The trial court denied those motions on the
grounds that the lawsuit was a civil matter.
trial court also stated that "[a]t the end of his final
request for appointment of counsel, the first time he has
made a request to represent himself and be present at the
proceedings." The trial court judge stated that the
"letter" was not received until December 11, 2017.
The trial court judge further stated that the court had
"not received a bench warrant or anything else that
would facilitate his (Prieto's) appearance here
today." The trial court thereafter found that the case
had been "set for trial at his (Prieto's) request,
but that he has taken no further action to be present at the
proceedings, so we will proceed without him."
hearing from De La Garza's attorney, the trial court
rendered judgment in favor of De La Garza:
There was no evidence presented against Defendant Rafael De
La Garza, III. For this reason, the Court finds that
Defendant Rafael De La Garza, III is entitled to judgment.
Additionally, the Court found that Plaintiff is still in jail
and has not shown actual innocence as required under the law.
His conviction has not been overturned. Based on the
applicable case law . . . and the lack of evidence on the
elements, the Court finds that Defendant Rafael De La Garza,
III is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. After
considering the evidence, the Court finds that judgment
should be entered in favor of Defendant Rafael De La Garza,
III, and that Plaintiff shall take nothing.
trial court further held "because Mr. Alamia is not
present, I am going to dismiss the case against him for wont
(sic) of prosecution."
review a trial court's decision to allow or deny an
incarcerated person the opportunity to personally appear in a
self-initiated civil suit under an abuse of discretion
standard of review. See In re Z.L.T., 124 S.W.3d
163, 165 (Tex. 2003); Brewer v. Taylor, 737 S.W.2d
421, 424 (Tex. App.-Dallas 1987, no writ). A trial court
abuses its discretion only if it reaches a decision so
arbitrary and unreasonable as to amount to a clear and
prejudicial error of law or if it clearly fails to ...