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Duke v. Wilmington Savings Fund Society

Court of Appeals of Texas, Second District, Fort Worth

December 12, 2019

Keisha Duke, Appellant
v.
Wilmington Savings Fund Society, FSB DBA Christiana Trust as Owner Trustee of the Residential Credit Opportunities Trust V, Appellee

          On Appeal from County Court at Law No. 1 Tarrant County, Texas Trial Court No. 2018-008057-1

          Before Gabriel, Kerr, and Wallach, JJ.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          MIKE WALLACH JUSTICE

         In a forcible detainer action brought against Appellant Keisha Duke and others by Appellee Wilmington Savings Fund Society, FSB DBA Christiana Trust as Owner Trustee of the Residential Credit Opportunities Trust V (Wilmington), the trial court awarded possession to Wilmington. In three issues, Duke argues that (1) the trial court had neither subject matter jurisdiction over the case nor personal jurisdiction over her or the real property at issue, (2) Wilmington lacked standing and failed to prove its entitlement to judgment, and (3) the trial court's judgment is void because of fraud on the court. We affirm.

         Background

         Wilmington filed in the justice court a petition for forcible detainer against "Claire Duke and Keenan Duke[1] and All Other Occupants" of 5924 Walden Trail, Arlington, Texas (the Property). The petition stated that Wilmington had purchased the Property at a foreclosure sale and that the foreclosure sale had occurred after a declaration of default and the giving of notices required by law. It further asserted that the defendants had been given notice to vacate as required by Texas Property Code Section 24.002 and the applicable deed of trust but that the defendants had failed to surrender the property. See Tex. Prop. Code § 24.002.

         With its petition, Wilmington attached a copy of the substitute trustee's deed indicating that Claire and Keenan Duke were grantors of a September 2007 deed of trust, that a foreclosure sale had occurred on September 4, 2018, and that Wilmington had purchased the Property at the sale for $204, 434.10. It also attached an October 2016 "Home Equity Foreclosure Order" ordering that "Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., its successor or assigns" could foreclose on the Property. Duke filed a "Respondents Special Exception Demurrer" as her answer.

         On October 2018, the justice court signed a judgment ordering that Wilmington recover possession of the Property from Claire, Keenan, and "All Occupants," and the case was appealed to the county court.[2] In the county court, Wilmington filed copies of September 7, 2018 letters sent by certified mail, return receipt requested, and by regular mail to Claire Duke, Keenan Duke, and "Occupant(s) and/or Tenant(s)," giving them notice to vacate the Property. See id. § 24.005.

         The county court tried the case on March 22, 2019. That same day the court signed an order awarding possession of the Property and court costs to Wilmington. Duke now appeals.

          Discussion

         We begin by pointing out that, aside from one reference to the Texas Property Code (which we address next), Duke's brief is devoid of citations to relevant authority[3] and contains no substantive analysis of her issues. Her brief also fails to make citations to the record. "When an appellate brief does not contain citations to appropriate authority in support of an argument made in the brief, the argument does not meet the requirements for appellate briefs and is considered waived." In re Guardianship of Thomas, No. 02-08-299-CV, 2009 WL 670187, at *1 (Tex. App.-Fort Worth Mar. 12, 2009, no pet.) (mem. op.). We understand the difficulties that a pro se litigant faces in preparing a brief without the assistance of counsel, but in order to treat all parties equitably, we are obliged to hold pro se litigants to the same standards as licensed attorneys. See id.

         We notified Duke that her brief failed to comply with the Texas Rules of Appellate Procedure because it did not contain clear and concise arguments for the contentions made, with appropriate citations to legal authorities and to the record, and we gave her the opportunity to file an amended brief. See Tex. R. App. P. 38.1(i). Duke filed a corrected brief, but it, too, fails to comply with briefing requirements. Duke has therefore waived her arguments on appeal.[4] See Guardianship of Thomas, 2009 WL 670187, at *1. We nevertheless briefly address her primary arguments below, or at least what we perceive her arguments to be.

         I. The County Court's Jurisdiction

         In her first issue, Duke states that Wilmington "brought a petition for Forcible Detainer under Texas Property Code section 24.001 after a supposed 'foreclosure sale' of [Duke's] property. However, the trial court erred by assuming personal and [subject matter] jurisdiction where none was established on the record." More specifically, Duke argues that if a manufactured home is personal property, it is not subject to the Texas Property Code; that, assuming her property "might be considered" manufactured housing, it is therefore not subject to the Texas Property Code; and that because no documents "supporting this claim exist on the record or anywhere else," the county court did not have either personal or subject matter jurisdiction. See Segoviano v. Guerra, 557 S.W.3d 610, 614 (Tex. App.-El Paso 2017, pet. denied) (noting that by statute a manufactured home is personal property unless the owner has elected to treat the home as real property and filed a specific ...


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