Court of Appeals of Texas, Sixth District, Texarkana
IN RE WILLIAM A. RUNNELS
Submitted: July 25, 2019
Original Mandamus Proceeding
Morriss, C.J., Burgess and Stevens, JJ.
E. Stevens, Justice
William A. Runnels, proceeding pro se, brings this original
petition seeking mandamus relief from three orders denying
his motions to recuse the Honorable Alfonso F. Charles,
presiding judge of the 124th Judicial District Court of Gregg
County, Texas (Judge Charles). Runnels asks this Court to issue
an order "vacat[ing], void[ing], revers[ing] and or
remanding" the three orders denying his motions and to
enter an order requiring Judge Charles to recuse. For the
reasons below, we deny Runnels' request for mandamus
issues only when the mandamus record establishes (1) a clear
abuse of discretion or violation of a duty imposed by law and
(2) the absence of a clear and adequate remedy at law.
Walker v. Packer, 827 S.W.2d 833, 839 (Tex. 1992)
(orig. proceeding). Mandamus is an extraordinary remedy that
will issue only to correct a clear abuse of discretion, or in
the absence of another statutory remedy, when the trial court
"fails to observe a mandatory statutory provision
conferring a right or forbidding a particular action."
State Bar of Tex. v. Heard, 603 S.W.2d 829, 834
(Tex. 1980) (orig. proceeding).
court abuses its discretion if "it reaches a decision so
arbitrary and unreasonable as to amount to a clear and
prejudicial error of law." Walker, 827 S.W.2d
at 839 (quoting Johnson v. Fourth Court of Appeals,
700 S.W.2d 916, 917 (Tex. 1985) (orig. proceeding)). As for
resolving factual issues or matters committed to the trial
court's discretion, the reviewing court may not
substitute its judgment for the trial court. See Brady v.
Fourteenth Court of Appeals, 795 S.W.2d 712, 714 (Tex.
1990) (orig. proceeding). That said, "[a] trial court
has no 'discretion' in determining what the law is or
applying the law to the facts." Huie v.
DeShazo, 922 S.W.2d 920, 927 (Tex. 1996) (orig.
proceeding) (quoting Walker, 827 S.W.2d at840);
see In re Jorden, 249 S.W.3d 416, 424 (Tex. 2008)
(orig. proceeding). For that reason, an erroneous legal
conclusion by the trial court constitutes an abuse of
discretion. Huie, 922 S.W.2d at 927-28. A clear
failure by the trial court to apply the law correctly is an
abuse of discretion. Walker, 827 S.W.2d at 840. The
denial of a motion to recuse is appealable upon the entry of
a final judgment. Tex. R. Civ. P 18a(j). As a result, a
relator who challenges the denial of a motion to recuse
ordinarily has an adequate remedy through direct appeal.
In re Norman, 191 S.W.3d 858, 860 (Tex. App.-
Houston [14th Dist.] 2006, orig. proceeding). Even so,
mandamus relief is available when a judge whom the party
seeks to recuse refuses either to recuse or to refer the
motion to the administrative judge. Id. (Rule 18a
states that judge has "mandatory duty either to recuse
himself or to refer the recusal motion to the presiding
judge"); see Rio Grande Valley Gas Co., 8
S.W.3d 303, 306-07 (Tex. 1999) (orig. proceeding); McLeod
v. Harris, 582 S.W.2d 772, 775 (Tex. 1979) (orig.
proceeding) (conditionally issuing writ of mandamus because
the trial judge had a mandatory duty to refer motion to
recuse to region's administrative judge).
complains of the orders denying his November 7, 2018, March
21, 2019, and April 5, 2019, motions to recuse. Yet, Runnels
has provided this Court with only the April 5, 2019, order,
signed and entered by the Honorable Jack Skeen, Jr.,
presiding judge of the 241st Judicial District Court of Smith
County, Texas. That order explains, "The allegations
made by [Runnels] all complain about what he alleges are
Judge Charles's rulings in the case, and therefore do not
meet the requirements of TRCP 18(a) that a Motion to Recuse
or Disqualify a Judge MUST NOT BE BASED SOLELY on
the Judge's Rulings in the case." Runnels also
failed to provide the three motions on which the
complained-of orders were based.
event, Runnels has not shown that he lacked an adequate
remedy at law, through the direct appeal process, to complain
about the denial of his three motions to recuse. Nor has he
shown that the trial court violated a mandatory statutory
duty either to recuse, or to refer his motions to recuse, to
the appropriate administrative judge. To the contrary, from
the limited record Runnels has provided, his motions were
reviewed in the appropriate manner.
therefore deny Runnels' petition for writ of mandamus.
Runnels entitled some of his motions as
"Motion[s] to Disqualify/Recuse." In his petition,
however, Runnels refers to Judge Charles' failure to
recuse, rather than the potential for his judicial
According to Runnels, the matter here
involves a suit to modify the parent-child relationship filed
under trial court ...