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Watts v. Feldman

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourteenth District

October 15, 2019

JOSEPH K. WATTS, Appellant
v.
STEWART A. FELDMAN, INDIVIDUALLY, THE FELDMAN LAW FIRM LLP, RAPID SETTLEMENTS, LTD., RAPID MANAGEMENT CORP., RSL-3B-IL, LTD., RSL-3B-IL MANAGEMENT CORP., RSL-5B-IL MANAGEMENT CORP., RSL-5B-IL, LTD., RSL SPECIAL MANAGEMENT CORP., RSL-SPECIAL IV, LTD., AND RAPID FUNDING CORP., Appellees

          On Appeal from the 55th District Court Harris County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. 2009-09825B

          Panel consists of Chief Justice Frost and Justices Zimmerer and Hassan.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          PER CURIAM

         Appellant Joseph K. Watts seeks to appeal an order in this post-judgment garnishment action in which the trial court ordered the release of funds from the court's registry for distribution to the IOLTA account of appellee The Feldman Law Firm LLP. In their brief, appellees/garnishors Stewart A. Feldman, individually, The Feldman Law Firm LLP, Rapid Settlements, Ltd., Rapid Management Corp., RSL-3B-IL, Ltd., RSL-3B-IL Management Corp., RSL-5B-IL Management Corp., RSL-5B-IL, Ltd., RSL Special Management Corp., RSL-Special IV, Ltd., and Rapid Funding Corp. (collectively the "Feldman Parties) challenged this court's appellate jurisdiction. Concluding that the order is interlocutory and that no statute authorizes an interlocutory appeal from the order, we dismiss for lack of appellate jurisdiction.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         The Feldman Parties obtained a judgment against appellant/judgment debtor Joseph K. Watts and others (the "Judgment"). In August 2017, the Feldman Parties, contending that "at least $39, 628.59" remained outstanding to satisfy the Judgment, filed their Application for Writ of Garnishment After Judgment in the trial court below under cause number 2009-09825-B in the 55th Judicial District Court. The Feldman Parties named as garnishees Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. and Amegy Bank of Texas, and asserted their belief that Watts had one or more accounts at each bank.

         Eight days later, Watts filed an "Application for Temporary Restraining Order, Temporary Injunction, and Permanent Injunction." Wells Fargo then filed an answer to the garnishment application and sought to recover reasonable attorney's fees.

         Watts filed a "Motion to Interplead Funds into the Registry of the Court," and sought attorney's fees and costs. The same day, the trial court issued an order dismissing the claims against Amegy Bank of Texas without prejudice at the request of the Feldman Parties.

         Watts then filed an "Amended Application for Temporary Restraining Order, Motion to Dissolve the Hold/Writ of Garnishment and for Sanctions," in which he asked the trial court to issue a temporary restraining order, set a hearing on Watts's application for a temporary injunction, and after trial issue a permanent injunction against the Feldman Parties. Watts also sought monetary sanctions against the Feldman Parties, including monetary sanctions based on Watts's attorney's fees.

         On September 7, 2017, the trial court signed an "Order on Motion to Interplead Funds into the Registry of the Court" ("First Order"), in which the trial court provided that Wells Fargo may deposit the proceeds of a June 9 check into the registry of the court and that if Wells Fargo did so it would be released and the garnishment would be "lifted." The trial court did not address Wells Fargo's request for attorney's fees, nor did it rule on Watts's request for injunctive relief and sanctions. The face of the First Order shows proposed language that would have awarded Watts reasonable and necessary attorney's fees and costs, but that language is crossed out.

         On September 10, 2017, the Feldman Parties filed a motion seeking release of any funds deposited funds deposited by Wells Fargo. The next day, Watts filed an "Emergency Motion to Quash Writ of Garnishment" and in it requested sanctions and reasonable attorney's fees and costs.

         The following day, the trial court considered the emergency motion and issued an order quashing the writ of garnishment and modifying the procedures set forth in the First Order ("Second Order"). In the Second Order the trial court did not address Watts's requests for sanctions and attorney's fees.

         On September 25, 2017, the trial court issued an order granting the Feldman Parties' motion for release of funds (the "Third Order"). In the Third Order, the trial court determined that the Feldman Parties were entitled to funds deposited in the court's registry and ordered the district clerk to distribute the funds in the registry to the IOLTA account of The Feldman Law Firm LLP for application against the Judgment. Watts filed a notice of appeal purporting to appeal from the Third Order.

         II. ...


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