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In re Hart

Court of Appeals of Texas, Seventh District, Amarillo

July 24, 2019

IN RE CALEB LOGAN HART, RELATOR

          Original Proceeding Arising From Proceedings Before the 31st District Court, Gray County, Texas Trial Court Nos. 9662, 9663, 9664, 9665, 9666 & 9392; Honorable Steven R. Emmert, Presiding

          Before QUINN, C.J., and PIRTLE and PARKER, JJ.

          ORIGINAL PROCEEDING

          PER CURIAM.

         Relator, Caleb Logan Hart, an inmate proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, has filed a petition for writ of mandamus seeking to compel the Honorable Steven R. Emmert, presiding judge of the 31st District Court, to vacate all court costs and fees assessed in trial court cause numbers 9662, 9663, 9664, 9665, and 9666. Relator also seeks to compel Judge Emmert to amend a supplemental Bill of Cost in trial court cause number 9392, generated in 2019, that added a $2, 000 fine to the original Bill of Cost generated in 2014. For the reasons explained herein, Relator's petition for writ of mandamus is denied.

         Background

         The charges brought against Relator in trial court cause numbers 9662, 9663, 9664, 9665, and 9666, resulted in five convictions for sexually-related offenses (three convictions for aggravated sexual assault, one conviction for indecency with a child, and one conviction for prohibited sexual conduct). The offenses were alleged to have occurred on four different dates between 2011 and 2013. Relator was convicted and sentenced in each cause on October 15, 2014. Those convictions were affirmed by this court in Hart v. State, 481 S.W.3d 679, 685 (Tex. App.-Amarillo 2015, no pet.).

         The certified copy of each Bill of Cost, included in Relator's appendix to his petition, reflect that they were all generated on January 25, 2019. The "Fine, Fees & Court Costs" on each Bill of Cost include line-item categories as follows:

DISTRICT CLERK

$40.00

CONSOLIDATED COURT COSTS

$133.00

RECORDS MANAGEMENT - COUNTY

$22.50

RECORDS MGMT DC

$2.50

COURTHOUSE SECURITY

$5.00

JURY FEE

$4.00

JUDICIAL SUPPORT

$6.00

TIME PAYMENT

$25.00

INDIGENT (IDF)

$2.00

TECHNOLOGY

$4.00

ELECTRONIC FILING

$5.00

SHERIFF

$60.00

JURY TRIAL FEE

$20.00

DNA - FELONY

$250.00

$579.00

         With the exception of the Bill of Cost in cause number 9663, each Bill of Cost reflects a total assessment of $579.00. The Bill of Cost in cause number 9663 includes an additional $100 for "Child Abuse Prevention," for a total assessment of $679.00.

         Also included in Relator's Appendix is a copy of the original Bill of Cost in cause number 9392, reflecting a total assessment of $998.00, as of November 7, 2014, and an amended Bill of Cost reflecting a total assessment of $2, 998.00, as of January 25, 2019. The difference between the original and amended Bill of Cost is the addition of a fine in the amount of $2, 000.00.

         Relator asserts that in April 2019, his family deposited $130.00 into his inmate account of which all but $2.30 was applied to costs and fees assessed. This, he argues, constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment and a violation of his due process rights by garnishing repetitive fees assessed pursuant to five separate bills of cost for a "single prosecution." He also contends there is insufficient evidence to support the costs and fees assessed against him.

         Mandamus Standard of Review

         Mandamus is an extraordinary remedy granted only when a relator can show that (1) the trial court abused its discretion and (2) that no adequate appellate remedy exists. In re H.E.B. Grocery Co., L.P., 492 S.W.3d 300, 302 (Tex. 2016) (orig. proceeding) (per curiam). When seeking mandamus relief, a relator bears the burden of proving these two requirements. Walker v. Packer, 827 S.W.2d 833, 840 (Tex. 1992) (orig. proceeding).

         To establish an abuse of discretion, the relator must demonstrate the trial court acted unreasonably, arbitrarily, or without reference to any guiding rules or principles. See Downer v. Aquamarine Operators, Inc., 701 S.W.2d 238, 241-42 (Tex. 1985). To establish no adequate remedy by appeal, the relator must show there is no adequate remedy at law to address the alleged harm and that the act requested is a ministerial act, not involving a discretionary or judicial decision. State ex rel. Young v. Sixth Judicial Dist. Court of Appeals, 236 S.W.3d 207, 210 (Tex. Crim. App. 2007) (orig. proceeding). Furthermore, in order to establish a ...


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