Special contributing author Laura Mueller, City Attorney for Dripping Springs
Claudia Brown, Justice of the Peace for Precinct 4, Place #1 v. State of Texas, No. 08-19-00110-CV (Tex. App.—El Paso October 12, 2020).
In this appeal from an elected official removal case, the pro se appellant appealed from her removal by the trial court for misconduct and incompetence. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s removal because the appellant failed to adequately brief her appeal and failed to submit a reporter’s record, which is required of all appellants, including pro se appellants.
The appellant was the Justice of the Peace for Bell County. The Bell County Attorney filed suit against the appellant to have her removed from office for official misconduct and incompetence. The charges were upheld by a jury after a three-day trial. The appellant appealed the decision as a pro se litigant (although the appellant was represented at the trial court). The clerk’s office filed the clerk’s record in the appellant’s appeal, but the appellant did not file the reporter’s record although it existed and the appellate court requested it multiple times. The appellant filed brief with attachments that either: (1) did not exist in the trial court; or (2) referenced the unfilled reporter’s record. The court of appeals affirmed the trial court’s judgment holding that the appellant waived her issues on appeal with inadequate briefing and the lack of a reporter’s record.
“A pro se litigant is held to the same standards as licensed attorneys and must comply with applicable laws and rules of procedure. Hughes v. Armadillo Prop. for Lina Roberts, No. 03-15- 00698-CV, 2016 WL 5349380, at *2 (Tex.App.–Austin Sep. 20, 2016, no pet.)(mem. op.); Robb Horizon Comm. Improvement Ass’n, Inc., 417 S.W.3d 585, 590 (Tex.App.–El Paso 2013, no pet.).” The Texas Rules of Appellate Procedure require that briefing provide the issues for review with clear arguments and references to the record. If a reporter’s record is not filed, the court can only review those issues that can be determined by the clerk’s record. Tex.R.App.P. 37.3(c)(1). Also, attachments that are not in the record cannot be considered by the appellate court. Tex.R.App.P. 34.1. The appellate court gave the appellant multiple chances to cure these issues.
The Court of Appeals held that the appellant’s failure to clearly state her issues and the lack of a reporter’s record narrowed the court’s review to the clerk’s record required them to find that the trial court acted appropriately. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s order of removal.
If you would like to read this opinion click here. Panel consists of Chief Justice Alley and Justices Rodriguez and Palafox. Opinion by Justice Yvonne T. Rodriguez.