Appellate practitioners know that winning an appeal is not always the end of litigation. Sometimes it’s just a new beginning of disputes, as my blog entry regarding the Supreme Court’s opinion in the In re Columbia Medical Center case indicates. But other times, it really is supposed to be the end. What happens if the trial judge doesn’t see it that way?
Last month, I blogged about a case called In re Victor Enterprises, Inc., in which the Dallas Court of Appeals granted a petition for writ of mandamus against Dallas County Court at Law No. 1 after the judge of that court granted a petition for writ of mandamus without requesting a response from the Relator, Victor Enterprises. The court of appeals held that such an act was clear error and granted mandamus. Now there’s more to the story…
It turns out that the county court’s granting of the writ of mandamus occurred because Victor Enterprises had obtained a judgment against the real party in interest, Clifford Holland, in justice court and Mr. Holland did not appeal that judgment. Instead, he sought a writ of mandamus from the county court. After the county court vacated her mandamus as directed by the court of appeals, the justice court reinstated its judgment, which became final and unappealable.
Victor Enterprises then obtained a writ of possession and a writ of execution, at which point, Mr. Holland sought protection again from the county court judge. The county court judge signed an order suspending execution of the writ of possesion. Seven days later, the county court judge signed an order in a prior, pending suit between the parties, which had been timely appealed, and the court enjoined Victor Enterprises from initiating, prosecuting, or executing any litigation, action or writ seeking possession of or eviction of Mr. Holland from his residence. The order stated that the writ was issued to protect the county court’s jurisdiction.
Victor Enterprises filed a second petition for writ of mandamus with the Dallas Court of Appeals. In In re Victor Enterprises, Inc. II, the court of appeals points out that "[t]he county court at law never obtained jurisdiction over [the unappealed justice court judgments] because [Mr. Holland] did not appeal the judgments of the justice court." The court held that the county court "is not authorized to interfere with the two final, unappealed justice court judgments that do not relate to the subject matter of [Mr. Holland’s] direct appeal . . ." The appellate court concluded that it was error for the county court judge to suspend execution on the justice court’s unappealed judgments and granted the writ of mandamus. Noteably, the opinion refers to the trial judge by name, rather than referring to her as "trial judge," "respondent" or "the trial court." The court’s opinion may be found here.