The Houston (Fourteenth) Court of Appeals recently held that a trial court abuses its discretion if it conditions a trial setting on the payment of sanctions.  Here, after a plaintiff and his attorney were sanctioned $45,000 and $5,000, respectively, they challenged the sanctions order by mandamus.  In its memorandum opinion, the court of appeals began by holding that because the plaintiff and his attorney did not claim that the sanctions threatened their ability to continue the litigation, they had an adequate remedy by appeal and, thus, were not entitled to mandamus relief with respect to the sanctions.

In addition to awarding sanctions, however, the order set the trial for the "next available trial date following payment of the fees in full as ordered herein."  Citing precedent, the court held that "[a] sanctions award that impedes the prosecution of the case warrants extraordinary relief."  Accordingly, the court of appeals conditionally granted mandamus and ordered the trial court to delete the language in the sanctions order that conditioned the trial setting on the payment of sanctions.  The court’s opinion in In re Gawlikowski can be found here