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Topletz v. Skinner

United States District Court, E.D. Texas, Sherman Division

December 5, 2019

STEVEN K. TOPLETZ, Petitioner,
JIM SKINNER, Respondent.



         Pending before the Court is Petitioner Steven K. Topletz's (“Petitioner”) Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction (the “Motion”) (Dkt. 3). Petitioner filed the above-numbered petition for writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254 (the “Petition”) (Dkt. 1). The Petition was referred to the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge for findings of fact, conclusions of law, and recommendations for the disposition of the case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636. The parties consented to the Magistrate Judge for the limited purpose of deciding the temporary restraining order. See Dkt. 13.

         On November 25, 2019, the Court held a hearing to address whether the Court has jurisdiction to decide the Motion (the “Jurisdiction Hearing”), wherein only Petitioner appeared.[1]See Dkt. 5. After requesting leave to file additional briefing at the Hearing, Petitioner filed a Supplemental Brief in Support of the Motion on November 26, 2019 (“Supplemental Brief”) (Dkt. 6), to specifically address the Court's question regarding jurisdiction. The Court subsequently ordered Respondent Jim Skinner (“Respondent”) to file responsive briefing limited to the question of the Court's jurisdiction regarding this matter. See Dkt. 7. Respondent filed his Brief on Federal Habeas Corpus Jurisdiction on December 3, 2019 (Dkt. 9). On December 5, 2019, the Court held a hearing regarding Petitioner's Motion (the “Motion Hearing”), wherein both the Petitioner and the Respondent appeared. See Dkt. 13. Respondent represented that he is unopposed to the issuance of a temporary restraining order, but opposed to the issuance of a preliminary injunction. See id.

         I. BACKGROUND

         In 2018, Petitioner was served with post-judgment discovery in a case pending in the 416th Judicial District Court in Collin County, Texas (the “Collin County Court”), Trial Court Cause No. 416-04120-2012. See Dkt. 1. The Collin County Court ordered Petitioner to provide information related to his assets and liabilities, such as financial documents for the Steven K. Topletz 2011 Family Trust (the “Trust”), since Petitioner is a beneficiary. See id. Petitioner alleges that he sent a letter to the trustee for the Trust requesting such documents, but the trustee denied his request. See id. Because the trustee denied his request for documents, Petitioner alleges he cannot comply with the Collin County Court's order. See id. Thus, the Collin County Court found Petitioner in contempt and sentenced him to up to six months in the Collin County Detention Facility, or until he purged himself of contempt (the “Contempt Judgment”). See Dkt. 1. Petitioner was immediately taken into custody by the Collin County Sheriff. Id.

         The same day the Collin County Court entered its Contempt Judgment, Petitioner filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus with the Dallas Fifth Court of Appeals. See Dkt. 1. The Fifth Court of Appeals denied Petitioner's petition, holding that Petitioner had constructive possession of the requested documents. See id. Petitioner moved for a rehearing with the Fifth Court of Appeals and filed a second petition for writ of habeas corpus with the Supreme Court of Texas. See id. Petitioner's request for rehearing and second petition with the Supreme Court of Texas were both denied. See id. On September 12, 2019, the Collin County Court issued a capias for Petitioner's arrest, which has since expired. See Dkt. 1-23. On October 8, 2019, the Collin County Court issued an amended capias, which is currently active. See Dkt. 1-7. Petitioner filed the present Petition on November 12, 2019. See id.


         A temporary restraining order should be restricted to serving the underlying purpose of preventing irreparable harm just so long as is necessary to hold a hearing, and no longer. Granny Goose Foods v. Bhd. of Teamsters & Auto Truck Drivers, 415 U.S. 423, 439 (1974). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 65 provides that “the Court may issue a temporary restraining order without written or oral notice to the adverse party only if:

(A) specific facts in an affidavit or a verified complaint clearly show that immediate and irreparable injury, loss, or damage will result to the movant before the adverse party can be heard in opposition; and
(B) the movant's attorney certifies in writing any efforts made to give notice and the reasons why it should not be required.”

Fed. R. Civ. P. 65(b)(1). Additionally, a party seeking injunctive relief must show: (1) a substantial likelihood of success on the merits; (2) a substantial threat that the movant will suffer irreparable injury if the injunction is denied; (3) that the threatened injury outweighs any damage that the injunction might cause the Defendant; and (4) that the injunction will not disserve the public interest. See Palmer v. Waxahachie Indep. Sch. Dist., 579 F.3d 502, 506 (5th Cir. 2009); Nichols v. Alcatel USA, Inc., 532 F.3d 364, 372 (5th Cir. 2008). The movant bears the burden to prove all four requirements in order to be entitled to injunctive relief. See Palmer, 579 F.3d at 506.

         III. ANALYSIS


         At the Jurisdiction Hearing and in the Supplemental Brief, Petitioner argues that he is “in custody” as required under the habeas corpus statute, and thus, the Court has jurisdiction to decide Petitioner's claims. See Dkt. 6. As indicated in Respondent's Brief, Respondent agrees that this Court has ...

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