Court of Appeals of Texas, Thirteenth District, Corpus Christi-Edinburg
SALVADOR ZAVALA, TDCJ NO. 1447730, Appellant,
JESUS R. DE HOYOS, ET AL., Appellees.
appeal from the 156th District Court of Bee County, Texas.
Chief Justice Contreras and Justices Benavides and Longoria
CONTRERAS CHIEF JUSTICE.
Salvador Zavala appeals a judgment dismissing his claims
against appellees Jesus R. De Hoyos, Sven Strack, Placido
Samaniego, Rafael Menchaca, Corey Furr, P. Chapa, "GR.
ID#1950," "GR. ID#2197," and
"TDCJ-CID." By two issues, appellant argues that
(1) the trial court abused its discretion when it dismissed
his suit without a hearing, and (2) the trial court lacked
subject matter jurisdiction to dismiss the case because
appellant objected to the appointment of an associate judge.
is an inmate housed in the McConnell Unit of the Texas
Department of Criminal Justice in Beeville, Texas. On April
24, 2018, appellant filed suit against appellees alleging
causes of action for breach of contract, equitable relief,
conversion, "participatory liability," conspiracy,
declaratory relief, and injunctive relief. Appellant's
petition alleged that appellees had stolen and damaged $160
worth of his property. In his petition, appellant objected to
the referral of his case to an associate judge.
written order, the trial court: (1) invited the Texas
Attorney General's Office (the AG's office) to file
an amicus curiae advisory; and (2) assigned Judge Joel
Johnson, a senior judge, to hear Zavala's case pursuant
to chapter 74 of the Texas Government Code. See Tex.
Gov't Code Ann. ch. 74. The AG's office
filed an amicus curiae advisory arguing Zavala
failed to comply with Chapter 14 of the Texas Civil Practice
and Remedies Code. Without holding a hearing, the trial court
dismissed appellant's claims. This appeal followed.
Appointment of Associate Judge
second issue, which we address first, appellant argues that
the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to dismiss
the case because appellant objected to the appointment of an
judges are appointed by a judge of a district or statutory
county court to a full-time or part-time position serving a
particular court. See Tex. Gov't Code Ann.
§§ 54A.101, 54A.102. A person does not have to have
been an elected judge to qualify as an associate judge, and
the ruling of an associate judge is subject to de novo
review. See id. §§ 54A.103, 54A.115. A
party can file a written objection to any associate judge
hearing a trial on the merits or presiding at a jury trial no
later than the tenth day after the party receives notice that
the associate judge will hear the trial. Id. §
judges, on the other hand, are active, retired, or senior
judges. See id. § 74.054. An assigned judge may
not hear a case if a party submits a timely objection no
later than seven days after the party receives actual notice
of the assignment or before the first hearing of the trial.
Id. § 74.053. A timely objection to a judge
"assigned" under chapter 74 has automatic effect
and any subsequent order by the assigned judge is void.
In re Canales, 52 S.W.3d 698, 701 (Tex. 2001) (orig.
appellant filed his objection to an associate judge with his
petition. However, Judge Johnson is not an associate judge.
The record makes clear that Judge Johnson is instead a senior
judge assigned pursuant to chapter 74 of the government code.
See id. §§ 54A.101-103, 74.054. Because
Zavala did not timely object to the assignment of a senior or
assigned judge, we conclude that Judge Johnson had
jurisdiction to hear the case and that his orders are not
overrule appellant's second issue.
III.Dismissal of ...