13th Court of Appeals holds former municipal court judge failed to establish right to injunction to prevent his removal

Phil Bellamy v. The City of Brownsville, et al, 13-22-00087-CV (Tex. App. – Corpus Christi, January 26, 2023)

This is an interlocutory appeal from the denial of a temporary injunction where the Thirteenth Court of Appeals affirmed the denial.  The case involved the City Council’s decision not to reappoint a municipal court judge.

On October 31, 2005, the City appointed Bellamy to serve his first term as a municipal judge which became effective November 2, 2005.  He served until 2019, always with reappointments effective November 2.   After his 2017–2019 term expired on November 2, 2019, the City notified Bellamy in writing, on December 2, 2019, that he was being reappointed to another “two[-]year term, effective December 2, 2019.” Bellamy accepted the appointment and took his oath of office on December 9, 2019.  On February 17, 2022, the City informed Bellamy that he would not be reappointed for another term.  Bellamy filed suit and sought a temporary injunction to prevent his removal. The trial court denied the injunction and Bellamy appealed.

Pursuant to Texas Government Code §29.005, a municipal court judge is appointed for a two-year term which renews automatically if the council does not take action on appointment before the 91st day after the end of the term. Bellamy’s claims hinge on whether his last term of office commenced on November 2, 2019, or December 2, 2019.  However, for temporary injunction purposes, the merits of the underlying claim are not presented for appellate review. For temporary injunction purposes, the plaintiff must show an irreparable injury. An injury is irreparable if the injured party cannot be adequately compensated in damages or if the damages cannot be measured by any certain pecuniary standard.  Bellamy’s assertion that an irreparable injury would result to the public at large and justice system is not one which he has standing to assert. The injury must be one he suffers, personally. While this is an appointment to public office claim, the court stated it was akin to a wrongful discharge claim. His loss of salary and benefits can be compensated with a definite pecuniary standard, so he cannot establish irreparable injury. As a result, it was proper for the trial court to deny the temporary injunction.

If you would like to read this opinion click here. Panel consists of Justices Benavides, Tijerina, and Pena. Memorandum opinion by Justice Benavides.


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