Court of Appeals of Texas, Seventh District, Amarillo
Appeal from the 25th District Court Guadalupe County, Texas
Trial Court No. 18-0752-CV-B, Honorable Todd A. Blomerth,
QUINN, C.J., and PIRTLE and PARKER, JJ.
before the Court is an appeal from a final summary judgment.
The latter purported to dispose of an appeal by Joseph Lopez
Jr., d/b/a AA Bail Out Bail Bonds from a decision of the
Guadalupe County Bail Bond Board (Board) denying him a
license. He attempted to perfect the appeal by filing an
original petition with the Clerk of the 25th Judicial
District. The Board answered the petition and moved for
summary judgment. Said motion was granted, and the trial
court "dismissed" the suit after denying Lopez
recovery. That led him to initiate the current appeal. While
preparing the matter for disposition, we directed the
litigants to address whether the trial court had
subject-matter jurisdiction to entertain Lopez's attempt
to review the Board's decision. They responded. Because
the trial court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over the
attempted appeal from the Board, we vacate the summary
judgment and enter the order which the trial court should
have entered. Tex.R.App.P. 43.3.
a court has subject-matter jurisdiction is a question of law,
reviewed de novo. Tex. Nat. Res. Conservation Comm'n
v. IT-Davy, 74 S.W.3d 849, 855 (Tex. 2002). The court
does not consider the merits of the case; instead, it decides
if it has the power to reach the merits of those claims.
City of Shavano Park v. Ard Mor, Inc., No.
04-14-00781-CV, 2015 Tex.App. LEXIS 11029, at *10 (Tex.
App.-San Antonio Oct. 28, 2015, no pet.) (mem. op. on
reh'g). Moreover, the existence of subject-matter juris
diction is elemental and never presumed or susceptible to
waiver. See Am. K-9 Detection Servs., LLC v.
Freeman, 556 S.W.3d 246, 260 (Tex. 2018). Without it,
any judgment of the court is void, In re United Servs.
Auto Ass'n, 307 S.W.3d 299, 309 (Tex. 2010) (orig.
proceeding), given that its only course of action is to
dismiss the proceeding for want of jurisdiction. If a trial
court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, it has no choice but
to dismiss the suit. Gonzales v. State, No.
07-07-0078-CR, 2007 Tex.App. LEXIS 2734, at *2 (Tex.
App.-Amarillo July 9, 2007, no pet.) (mem. op., not
designated for publication).
Texas Legislature deigned to regulate the bail bond business
in Texas and enacted a comprehensive set of statutes touching
upon the subject. They appear in Chapter 1704 of the Texas
Occupations Code. One such statute addresses the obligation
of the county bail bond board to conduct hearings on
applications presented it. See Tex. Occ. Code Ann.
§ 1704.158(a) (West 2012) (stating that "[a]fter
making the determinations required by Section 1704.157, a
board shall conduct a hearing on the application").
Another provides that "[a]fter the hearing under Section
1704.158, the board shall enter an order
conditionally approving the application unless the board
determines that a ground exists to deny the
application." Id. § 1704.159(a) (West
2012) (emphasis added). A third and fourth state that
"[I]f the board determines that a ground exists to deny
the application, the board shall enter an order
denying the application," id. (emphasis added),
and the board's order denying an application . .
. becomes final on the 31st day after the date the applicant
. . . receives notice of the order unless the
applicant . . . files an appeal under Section 1704.255."
Id. § 1704.257(a) (West 2012) (emphasis added).
Concerning a desire to review the decision, statute also
provides that "[a]n applicant . . . may appeal an
order of a board denying an application for a license .
. . by filing a petition in a district court in the
county." Id. § 1704.255(a) (West 2012)
(emphasis added). Common throughout the foregoing provisions
is the word "order." That is, the legislature
contemplated and demanded the issuance of an
"order" by the board reflecting its decision on an
application, and appeal be taken from that "order."
See Nueces Cty. Bail Bond Bd. v. Alkek, No.
13-04-00395-CV, 2006 Tex.App. LEXIS 5834, at *4 (Tex.
App.-Corpus Christi July 6, 2006, no pet.) (mem. op.)
(stating that where the legislature creates a right to appeal
from an administrative decision, the statutory provisions are
mandatory and must be complied with for the action to be
the legislature did not do was define the term
"order." Nevertheless, it did tell us that
"[w]ords and phrases that have acquired a technical or
particular meaning, whether by legislative definition or
otherwise, shall be construed accordingly." Tex.
Gov't Code Ann. § 311.011 (b) (West 2013). And, no
one can reasonably question that the word "order"
has taken on a technical or particular meaning over the years
in our jurisprudence. It generally denotes a separate writing
wherein the decision is manifested, signed by the issuing
authority, and entered of record. State Farm Ins. Co. v.
Pults, 850 S.W.2d 691, 692-93 (Tex. App.-Corpus Christi
1993, no writ) (stating that an "order must be reduced
to writing, signed by the trial court, and entered in the
record"); Order, Black's Law Dictionary
(9th ed. 2009) (defining "order" as a written
direction or command delivered by a court or judge generally
embracing final decrees and interlocutory directions). Simply
noting the decision in something akin to the court's
written docket does not suffice. See Pults, 850
S.W.2d at 693.
there is no "order" or separate written document
signed by the chairman or any other representative of the
Guadalupe Bail Bond Board declaring that the Board denies
Lopez's application for a license. Each party concedes as
much. The circumstances before us are akin to the effect of
having no final judgment or order from a justice court but
yet attempting to appeal that court's decision to a
county court at law. Indeed, it would be appropriate to view
the two situations as analogous since the legislature
revealed its intent to treat the appeals similarly through
another provision of the Occupation Code; per section
1704.255, we were informed that "[j]udicial review of an
appeal filed under Section 1704.255 is by trial de novo in
the same manner as an appeal from a justice court to a county
court." Tex. Occ. Code Ann. § 1704.256 (West 2012).
Had this case been an appeal from a justice court to a county
court at law, the latter would not have had jurisdiction to
try the dispute de novo given the absence of a final,
appealable "order." Fuller v. Harrell, No.
07-05-0322-CV, 2006 Tex.App. LEXIS 4263, at *2 (Tex.
App.-Amarillo May 17, 2006, no pet.) (mem. op.). And lacking
such jurisdiction, its only choice would have been to dismiss
than this Court dismissing the cause, the Board would have us
remand the cause to the Board and have it address the issue
of the missing order. Yet, the authority cited to us
purporting to allow that procedure is inapposite. It involves
remanding the appeal to the trial court for entry of an
appealable order or judgment; it says nothing of bypassing
the trial court and remanding to an administrative entity for
it to determine whether it entered an order upon which the
trial court's jurisdiction was dependent. Tex.
Political Subdivision v. Pharr San Juan Alamo Indep. Sch.
Dist, No. 13-13-00691-CV, 2015 Tex.App. LEXIS 7014, at
*7 (Tex. App.-Corpus Christi July 9, 2015, no pet.) (mem.
op.) (stating "Texas Rule of Appellate Procedure 27.2
and Lehmann authorize appellate courts to abate the
appeal and remand the case to the trial court for
modification of the order or clarification of the trial
court's intent to enter a final judgment. However, this
procedure is available only if we are uncertain whether the
trial court intended to enter a final judgment.");
Evanston Ins. Co. v. D & L Masonry of Lubbock,
Inc., No. 07-10-00253-CV, 2010 Tex.App. LEXIS 6593, at
*4 n.1 (Tex. App.-Amarillo Aug. 12, 2010, no pet.) (mem. op.)
(stating that "[w]e are aware that Texas Rule of
Appellate Procedure 27.2 and Lehmann authorize
appellate courts to abate the appeal and remand the case to
the trial court for modification of the order or
clarification of the trial court's intent to enter a
final judgment. However, such procedure is available ...