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In re Santana

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourteenth District

November 5, 2019

IN RE NOE SANTANA, Relator

          ORIGINAL PROCEEDING WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS 309th District Court Harris County, Texas Trial Court Cause Nos. 2004-21815 & 2017-30600

          Panel consists of Justices Jewell, Bourliot, and Zimmerer.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          PER CURIAM

         On September 30, 2019, relator Noe Santana filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in this Court. See Tex. Gov't Code Ann. § 22.221; see also Tex. R. App. P. 52. In the petition, relator asks this court to order his release from confinement in the Harris County Jail for contempt based on two commitment orders dated September 27, 2019. We ordered relator temporarily released from custody upon posting bond. We now grant relator's petition for writ of habeas corpus.

         I. Background

         Relator is obligated to pay child support for two children in two orders in separate trial court cause numbers. In the first case, cause number 2004-21815, a July 11, 2005 order directed relator to pay $450.00 in monthly child support (the "2005 order"). In the second case, cause number 2017-30600, an April 26, 2019 order directed relator to pay $1, 710.00 in monthly child support (the "2019 order").

         Mother moved to enforce the order both orders. Mother alleged that relator had made no child support payments under the 2005 order from July 1, 2005 through June 1, 2017. Mother requested that relator be held in contempt, sentenced to serve 180 days in jail for each violation, sentences to run concurrently, and be fined $500.00 for each violation.

         With respect to the 2019 order, Mother alleged that relator had failed to make child support payments on April 1, 2019 and May 1, 2019, and failed to make payments to Mother's attorney, which were due on April 12, 2019 and April 26, 2019. Mother similarly requested that relator be held in contempt, sentenced to serve 180 days in jail for each violation, sentences to run concurrently, and fined $500.00 for each violation.

         On August 9, 2019, the trial court signed two orders holding relator in contempt for failure to pay child support. In cause number 2004-21815, the trial court sentenced relator to serve 180 days in jail, sentences to run concurrently, and assessed a $500.00 fine for each violation of the 2005 order for criminal contempt.

         In cause number 2017-30600, the trial court sentenced relator to serve 180 days in jail, sentences to run concurrently, and assessed a $500.00 fine for each violation of the 2019 order. Additionally for civil contempt in cause number 2017-30600, the trial court sentenced relator to no more than eighteen months in jail, including time served for criminal contempt, or until relator has complied with the following terms, whichever occurs first: relator pays (1) $3, 420.00 for child support arrearages through the Texas State Disbursement Unit; (2) a $2, 000.00 fine to the Harris County District Clerk; and (3) $85, 471.00 to Mother's attorney.

         The trial court, however, suspended relator's commitment in each case. In cause number 2004-21815, relator's suspension of commitment was conditioned upon relator's compliance with the following terms: relator pays (1) $20, 000.00 as a lump sum payment for child support arrearages through the Texas State Disbursement Unit; (2) $1, 500.00 per month for child support arrearages beginning on August 1, 2019 to the Texas State Disbursement Unit and on the first of each month thereafter until he has paid the arrearage in full; and (3) Mother's attorney $10, 375.42 in two $5, 187.71 payments.

         Mother moved to revoke the suspension of relator's commitment in each case, alleging that relator had not complied with the terms of the suspension of commitment. The trial court held a hearing on September 27, 2019, found that relator was not in compliance with the court's orders suspending relator's commitment, revoked the suspension of commitment in each case, and ordered relator taken into custody.

         For criminal contempt in cause number 2004-21815, the trial court sentenced relator to serve 180 days in jail for each violation, sentences to run concurrently. For civil contempt, the trial court ordered that relator's confinement would continue after completing his sentences for criminal contempt until relator had purged himself of any contempt by paying (1) $39, 784.59 toward child support arrearages to either the Texas State Disbursement Unit or the Domestic Relations Office; (2) $10, 375.42 to Mother's attorney; and (3) $63.00 to the Harris County District Clerk for commitment and steno fees.

         For criminal contempt in cause number 2017-30660, the trial court sentenced relator to serve 180 days in jail for each violation, sentences to run concurrently. For civil contempt, the trial court ordered that relator's confinement would continue after completing his sentences for criminal contempt until relator had purged himself of any contempt by paying (1) $6, 480.00 toward child support arrearages to either the Texas State Disbursement Unit or the Domestic Relations ...


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