Court of Appeals of Texas, Sixth District, Texarkana
Submitted: October 24, 2019
Appeal from the 369th District Court Anderson County, Texas
Trial Court No. DCCV 18-630-369
Morriss, C.J., Burgess and Stevens, JJ.
K. Burgess Justice
Hawes appeals from an order dismissing his suit against the
Estate of Tammy E. Henderson Peden (Peden Estate) and Tanika
J. Solomon, among others, for breach of contract, fraud, and
misrepresentation. The primary issue in this case is whether
the 369th Judicial District Court of Anderson
County had jurisdiction over Hawes's claims.
For the reasons stated herein, we conclude that the trial
court properly dismissed the lawsuit.
Factual and Procedural Background
filed a petition in a district court in Anderson County
alleging that, in April 2016, he paid $2, 500.00 to Tammy
Henderson Peden (Peden) and her law firm-Tammy E. Henderson
Peden, PLLC (Peden, PLLC)-to represent his interests before
the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles (Parole
Board). Hawes claimed that when Peden unexpectedly
passed away in April 2017, Tanika J. Solomon and TJ Solomon
Law Group, PLLC (Solomon), contracted with him to fulfill
Peden's legal representation of Hawes and that that
obligation was not fulfilled. In response to Hawes's
petition for breach of contract, fraud, and
misrepresentation, Solomon filed a plea to the jurisdiction
alleging that the petition was subject to the jurisdiction of
the probate court in which Peden's estate was then being
probated. The trial court agreed, finding that the Harris
County Probate Court had exclusive jurisdiction over
Hawes's claims, and dismissed the suit without prejudice
to refiling in the proper court.
pro se appeal from the order of dismissal, Hawes claims that
the trial court erred in granting the plea to the
jurisdiction because (1) his claims rose to the level of the
trial court's jurisdiction, (2) Solomon's assumption
of his legal representation negated the probate court's
jurisdiction, (3) damages exceeded the probate court's
statutory limits, (4) venue was mandatory in the county in
which he was incarcerated, (5) the ex parte, unnoticed
hearing without service of any pending motion caused Hawes to
suffer an undue financial burden by subjecting him to
additional filing fees, and (6) the basic tenets of due
process required service of the motion and Hawes's
presence at the hearing. Because we conclude that the trial
court properly dismissed the lawsuit pursuant to
Solomon's plea to the jurisdiction, we affirm the trial
Standard of Review
a court has subject matter jurisdiction is a question of
law." Tex. Dep't of Parks & Wildlife v.
Miranda, 133 S.W.3d 217, 226 (Tex. 2004) (citing
Tex. Nat. Res. Conservation Comm'n v. IT-Davy,
74 S.W.3d 849, 855 (Tex. 2002)). Unless a case involves
"disputed evidence of jurisdictional facts that also
implicate the merits of the case," we review questions
of jurisdiction de novo. Id. "In deciding a
plea to the jurisdiction, the trial court must determine if
the plaintiff has alleged facts that affirmatively
demonstrate its jurisdiction to hear the case."
Narvaez v. Powell, 564 S.W.3d 49, 53 (Tex. App.-El
Paso 2018, no pet.) (citing Miranda, 133 S.W.3d at
226). We construe pleadings liberally in favor of the pleader
and accept the factual allegations in the pleadings as true.
Id. When the pleadings affirmatively negate the
existence of jurisdiction, "the trial court may grant
the plea to the jurisdiction or the motion to dismiss without
allowing the plaintiff an opportunity to amend."
Id. (citing Miranda, 133 S.W.3d at 226).
"Whether a pleader has alleged facts that affirmatively
demonstrate a trial court's subject matter jurisdiction
is a question of law reviewed de novo."
Miranda, 133 S.W.3d at 226.
The Trial Court Did Not Err in Dismissing Hawes's
Probate Court Jurisdiction
time Hawes filed his petition in the trial court, the probate
of the Peden Estate was pending in Probate Court No. 1 of
Harris County. That is a statutory probate court.
See Tex. Gov't Code Ann. § 25.1031(a).
"In a county in which there is a statutory probate
court, the statutory probate court has original jurisdiction
of probate proceedings." Tex. Estates Code Ann. §
32.002(c). "In a county in which there is a statutory
probate court, the statutory probate court has exclusive
jurisdiction of all probate proceedings . . . ." Tex.
Estates Code Ann. § 43.0059(a). "A cause of action
related to the probate proceeding must be brought in a
statutory probate court unless the jurisdiction of the
statutory probate court is concurrent with the jurisdiction
of a district court as provided by Section 32.007 or with the
jurisdiction of any other court." Tex. Estates Code Ann.
term "probate proceeding," as used in the Texas
Estates Code, has been defined to include "an
application, petition, motion, or action regarding the
probate of a will or an estate administration, including a
claim for money owed by the decedent." Tex. Estates Code
Ann. § 31.001(4) (Supp.); see Tex. Estates Code
Ann. § 22.029 ("probate matter," "probate
proceedings, "proceeding in probate," and
"proceedings for probate" are synonymous and
include matters or proceedings related to decedent's
estate). "[A] matter related to a probate proceeding
includes . . . an action for trial of the right of property
that is estate property." Tex. Estates Code Ann. §
31.002(a)(6), (c)(1) (defining matters "related to a
first three points of error, Hawes essentially claims that
his case was properly filed in the district court
notwithstanding the probate court action because his petition
satisfies the statutorily required amount in controversy and
because Solomon replaced Peden as his legal
counsel. We turn to Hawes's ...