The Dallas Court of Appeals recently discussed the difference between judicial errors and clerical errors and highlighted why it’s so very important to pay attention to the language in orders and judgments.
In In the Interest of N.E., D.E., & M.E., the trial court rendered a final judgment with a Mother Hubbard clause. The same judgment contained language stating that the intervention of an attorney for one of the parties (seeking attorney’s fees) was stricken. The trial judge interlineated language that would have made the striking of the intervention "without prejudice."
One hundred seventy-five days later, the trial court attempted to vacate its judgment and render a new judgment reciting dismissal of the intervention without prejudice. The question on appeal became whether such an order was a clerical mistake that could be corrected by nunc pro tunc judgment. The court of appeals held that adding the language "without prejudice" to the judgment was a change in the judgment actually rendered and was not correcting a clerical error. Thus, the court of appeals held that the trial court had no authority to make the change in its judgment since its plenary power had expired. The court of appeals’ opinion may be found here.