Court of Appeals of Texas, Third District, Austin
THE 98TH DISTRICT COURT OF TRAVIS COUNTY NO.
D-1-GN-16-000901, THE HONORABLE J. DAVID PHILLIPS, JUDGE
Justices Goodwin, Baker, and Kelly.
J. Baker, Justice.
Lee Martin, pro se, appeals the trial court's dismissal
of his "Ex Parte Petition for a Writ of Error
Quo-Warranto." The court dismissed Martin's petition
pursuant to chapter 14 of the Civil Practice and Remedies
Code, which governs claims by inmates. See Tex. Civ.
Prac. & Rem. Code § 14.003(a)(2) (permitting courts
to dismiss inmate claims that are frivolous); see also
Hickson v. Moya, 926 S.W.2d 397, 399 (Tex. App -Waco
1996, no writ) (stating that chapter 14 was designed to
"control the flood of frivolous lawsuits being filed in
the courts of this State by prison inmates, consuming
valuable judicial resources with little offsetting
benefit"). We affirm the trial court's order.
AND STANDARD OF REVIEW
was convicted in 2001 of aggravated sexual assault, a felony,
and is currently serving a life sentence for the offense. In
2016 he filed his petition quo warranto against several
public officials connected to his conviction-the Honorable
Bob Perkins, the judge who presided over his trial; former
Travis County District Attorney Ronald Earle; former Travis
County Assistant District Attorney Gary Cobb; Travis County
Assistant District Attorney Diana Medina; former Travis
County District Clerk Amalia Rodriguez-Mendoza; and former
Travis County District Clerk's Office employee Blake
Williams-alleging that they did not have their oaths of
office on file and that his conviction is therefore
"null and void ab initio."
Earle, Cobb, Medina, and Rodriguez-Mendoza filed a motion to
dismiss under chapter 14 of the Civil Practice and Remedies
Code. See Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code §
14.003(a). The trial court granted the motion and sua sponte
dismissed with prejudice Martin's lawsuit against all of
the appellees, determining that the suit (1) has no basis in
law because the court lacked jurisdiction; (2) has no basis
in fact; and (3) is presumed frivolous because Martin did not
comply with chapter 14's requirements. See id.
§ 14.003(b)(2) (permitting court to consider whether
claim "has no arguable basis in law or in fact" in
determining whether inmate claim is frivolous); Bell v.
Texas Dep't of Criminal Justice-Institutional Div.,
962 S.W.2d 156, 158 (Tex. App-Houston [14th Dist] 1998, pet.
denied) (stating that when inmate fails to comply with
affidavit requirements of section 14.004, court is entitled
to presume that suit is substantially similar to one
previously filed by inmate and, therefore, frivolous);
see generally Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code
§§ 14.001-.014 (governing inmate claims).
review the trial court's order dismissing Martin's
petition for an abuse of discretion. See Hamilton v.
Pechacek, 319 S.W.3d 801, 809 (Tex. App-Fort Worth 2010,
no pet.). A trial court abuses its discretion if it acts in
an arbitrary or unreasonable manner without reference to any
guiding rules and principles. Crawford v. XTO Energy,
Inc., 509 S.W.3d 906, 911 (Tex. 2017).
contends that the trial court erred in determining that it
does not have jurisdiction over his petition and in
dismissing all of the appellees rather than just those who
filed the chapter 14 motion to dismiss. He also contends that
his petition has a basis in fact, contrary to the court's
determination, and that dismissal was not a proper remedy for
his failure to comply with chapter 14's requirements.
action in the nature of quo warranto is available if . . .
[relevantly] a person usurps, intrudes into, or unlawfully
holds or executes a franchise or an office, including an
office in a corporation created by the authority of this
state [or] a public officer does an act or allows an act that
by law causes a forfeiture of his office." Tex. Civ.
Prac. & Rem. Code § 66.001(1). Appellees correctly
contended in their motion to dismiss that Martin lacks
standing to maintain a quo warranto action because the
attorney general or county or district attorney must bring
such action in the name of the State of Texas. See
id. § 66.002(a) ("If grounds for the remedy
exist, the attorney general or the county or district
attorney of the proper county may petition the district court
of the proper county . . . for leave to file an information
in the nature of quo warranto."), (b) ("The
petition must state that the information is sought in the
name of the State of Texas."); Gaines v. Jasso,
No. 05-16-00578-CV, 2017 WL 1908632, at *1 (Tex. App - Dallas
May 10, 2017, no pet.) (mem. op.) (affirming trial
court's dismissal of plaintiff s petition for writ of quo
warranto alleging that judge who presided over his suit
should be removed because he had not signed oath of office
because such action may only be brought by attorney general
or county or district attorney); Orix Capital Mkts., LLC
v. American Realty Tr., Inc., 356 S.W.3d 748, 754 (Tex.
App-Dallas 2011, pet. denied) (holding that judgment debtor
lacked standing to bring action in quo warranto to challenge
qualifications of district court judge, as only State may
pursue action); see also City of Rockwall v. Hughes,
246 S.W.3d 621, 627 n.8 (Tex. 2008) ("Quo warranto
proceedings are used by the State to protect itself and the
good of the public through agents of the State who control
the proceedings."); Wilson v. State, 977 S.W.2d
379, 380 (Tex. Crim. App. 1998) (holding that only attorney
general or county or district attorney may bring quo warranto
action). Because Martin does not have standing to maintain
this action, the trial court properly dismissed his petition
on the ground that it has no basis in law. See Tex.
Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 14.003(b)(2). Furthermore,
the trial court properly dismissed Martin's claim against
all appellees, as the court may dismiss an inmate claim that
is frivolous even before service of process has been
effectuated. See id. § 14.003(a).
Martin contends that an unusual procedural occurrence in the
trial court essentially transformed his quo warranto action
into one brought by the State. The record shows that his
petition was inadvertently dismissed for want of prosecution;
in response, Martin filed a lawsuit against the Travis County
District Clerk. To rectify this inadvertence, the district
clerk filed an equitable bill of review seeking to reinstate
Martin's case, which the trial court granted. Because his
case was reinstated-via an order signed by the trial
court-Martin contends that this quo warranto action "was
filed by order of a judge" and thus falls under the
statutory requirement that it be brought by the State or on
its behalf. However, there is no support for this proposition
in the record or under any applicable law. Furthermore, the
county attorney's chapter 14 motion to dismiss belies
Martin's contention that the action was brought by the
State. We overrule Martin's first issue, which is
dispositive, and thus need not address his other arguments.
See Tex. R. App. P. 47.1, 47.4.
trial court did not abuse its discretion in dismissing
Martin's petition for writ of error quo warranto.