PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDAMUS
Stephen Casey challenges a trial court order sanctioning him
for "misrepresenting" and "not
disclosing" legal authority in a motion to designate the
real party in interest a vexatious litigant. Casey seeks a
writ of mandamus compelling the trial court to either vacate
the monetary sanctions order and reinstate the
vexatious-litigant designation or defer the sanctions-payment
deadline until rendition of an appealable judgment. In
Braden v. Downey, we declined to consider the
propriety of monetary sanctions by mandamus, holding instead
that payment of monetary sanctions must be deferred until
rendition of an appealable judgment if (1) the sanctioned
party contends immediate payment would impair access to the
courts and (2) the trial court does not promptly hold a
hearing and make express written findings to the contrary.
811 S.W.2d 922, 929-30 (Tex. 1991). The Braden
procedure helps ensure an adequate remedy for an improper
sanctions order is available by appeal. Id. at 930.
Consistent with Braden, we direct the trial court to
modify the sanctions order to defer payment until final
judgment is rendered, allowing Casey "an opportunity to
appeal before such sanctions must be paid." See
mandamus proceeding arises in the context of a long-running
intra-family dispute over a personal loan Ann Coyle, an
attorney licensed in Massachusetts, made to her brother and
former sister-in-law, Chad Walker and Alisha Flood. Two
previous lawsuits Coyle filed against Walker and Flood were
settled by agreed judgment, but a dispute about satisfaction
of the agreed judgments resulted in the parties levying new
claims against one another.
and Flood, represented by Casey, sued Coyle for abstracting a
judgment fraudulently claiming they were in default.
See Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code §§
12.002 (liability for fraudulent court record or lien or
claim against property), 37.001-.011 (Texas Declaratory
Judgments Act). Coyle, acting pro se, countersued Walker and
Flood and instituted a third-party action against Casey for
monetary, declaratory, and equitable relief. Like Walker and
Flood, Coyle claimed court documents had been filed
fraudulently. She also sought damages for intentional
infliction of emotional distress and a declaration that
Casey, Walker, and Flood are vexatious litigants as defined
in Chapter 11 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code.
See Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code §§
11.001-.104 (vexatious litigants), 37.001-.011 (declaratory
judgments). Casey, on his own behalf and for his clients,
responded to Coyle's suit with a motion to dismiss her
claims as frivolous under Rule 91a and to designate her a
vexatious litigant. See Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem.
Code §§ 11.001-.104; Tex.R.Civ.P. 91a.
vexatious-litigant statute permits a court to designate a
plaintiff a vexatious litigant if the defendant proves that
(1) in reasonable probability, the plaintiff will not prevail
in the case against the defendant and (2) the plaintiff has a
history of pro se litigation covered by the statute. Tex.
Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 11.054. The statute defines
a history of vexatious litigation as including having
commenced, prosecuted, or maintained at least five state or
federal civil actions as a pro se litigant in the immediately
preceding seven-year period that were:
(1) finally determined adversely to the pro se plaintiff;
(2) remained pending at least two years without having been
brought to trial or hearing; or
(3) determined by a trial or appellate court to be frivolous
or groundless under state or federal laws or rules of
Id. §§ 11.001(2), .051, .054.
presented evidence that, in the preceding seven-year period,
Coyle had commenced, prosecuted, or maintained the following
pro se actions:
• a federal habeas petition challenging her expired
criminal sentence for misdemeanor disorderly conduct and
reckless endangerment, which was dismissed for lack of
• a Pennsylvania Post-Conviction Relief Act (PCRA)
proceeding challenging the same expired criminal sentence on
the same legal basis, which was dismissed for the same
• a Pennsylvania praecipe for a writ of summons action
asserting professional misconduct by an attorney, which was
dismissed more than two ...