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Texas Trial and Appellate Procedure
South Texas College of Law Houston
Carlson, Elaine A.

Texas Trial & Appellate Procedure
Carlson – Spring 2013
 
 
 
Chapter 1 – Pretrial Preparation and Motion Practice
 
§ 1.01 Scheduling the Trial
 
A.      Setting the Case for Trial in Accordance With Local Rules
 
a.       Trial Settings
 
                                                   i.      Methods of Setting for Trial
 
1.       Attorney’s task to set the trial
 
2.       Local rules frequently specify the conditions that must be met before case can be set
 
3.       Rule 245 – assignment of initial trial setting
 
a.       Motion made by either party;
 
b.       By the court on its own motion; or
 
c.        By agreement of the parties
 
4.       Rule 3a provides for local rules
 
a.       Judges can enact local rules to fill gaps in state rules
 
b.       Must be in writing and approved by Supreme Court
 
c.        Must be approved by judges in the county
 
d.       Usually specify conditions that must be met before case can be set for trial
 
e.        Describe methods for obtaining settings, possible consequences for failure to take action
 
f.        Cannot impose different time limits from the rules
 
                                                  ii.      Consequences of Failure to Set Case for Trial
 
1.       Plaintiff’s failure to act with diligence in setting a case for trial may result in DWOP
 
2.       Procedures exist to get a case reset, but not entitled to have case reinstated unless court finds the failure of a party or party’s attorney to take required action was neither intentional nor the result of conscious indifference
 
a.       Must be due to mistake or accident
 
                                                iii.      Notice of Setting for Trial
 
1.       Reasonable notice is 45 days
 
a.       Applies only to the first notice, not any successive notice (only needs to be reasonable)
 
b.       Due process right
 
c.        Failure to give notice sets aside a judgment and granting of a new trial
 
2.       When request trial setting, representing that you are ready
 
a.       Attorney must appear at docket call
 
b.       Do not ask for trial setting unless ready
 
3.       How to appeal if not given requisite 45 days
 
a.       Show (1) T Ct erred, (2) error was preserved, (3) error requires reversal (i.e., not harmless)
 
                                                iv.      Preferential Settings
 
1.       Texas trial courts must give preference to hearings and trials of certain specific trypes of cases
 
a.       Temporary injunctions
 
b.       Certain listed criminal actions
 
c.        Election contests under Texas Election Code
 
d.       Family protection orders
 
e.        Appeals of workers comp cases
 
f.        Claims under Jones Act
 
g.        Appeals of General Land Office
 
h.       Certain Penal Code violations
 
2.       Government Code has a more general provision allow preference if:
 
a.       Delay will cause physical or economic harm to a party or the public
 
b.       Substantive or constitutional rights take precedence
 
c.        Important issues that concern public or materially alter public welfare
 
b.       Announcements at Docket Calls
 
                                                   i.      Generally
 
1.       Counsel duty to attend docket call of the court where case pending
 
2.       Purpose to obtain accurate information from counsel as to whether a party is ready for trial
 
3.       Tell court you are:
 
a.       Ready;
 
b.       Conditionally ready; or
 
c.        Not ready/moving for continuance
 
4.       If announce “ready” at docket call, less likely to get a continuance
 
                                                  ii.      Consequences of Failure to announce
 
1.       Failure of plaintiff to announce ready may result in DWOP
 
2.       Local rules vary; in some, if no one announces ready, case taken off docket…others it is reset
 
3.       Check local rules
 
 
c.        Dismissals for Want of Prosecution
 
                                                   i.      Rule 165a – Dismissal for Want of Prosecution
 
1.       When any party seeks affirmative relief, they have the obligation to move the case forward and show up for all scheduled hearings. If the party fails to do this, then the case can be dismissed for want of prosecution. Dismissal is without prejudice, so plaintiff can refile the case again.
 
2.       Occurs three ways (after parties receive notice case on DWOP docket):
 
a.       Party seeking affirmative relief does not show up to a hearing they had notice of (fails to appear)
 
b.       Party fails to timely obtain a trial setting
 
                                                                                                                           i.      In civil, non-family, jury cases – 18 months
 
                                                                                                                          ii.      In civil, non-family, bench cases – 12 months
 
c.        Court has inherent power to dismiss for lack of due diligence (common law, not in rules)
 
3.       If case is DWOPd, a motion to reinstate can be filed
 
a.       Must include reasons to reinstate and must be verified
 
                                                                                                                           i.      Cannot be intention or result of conscious indifference
 
                                                                                                                          ii.      Must be due to mistake or accident or other reasonably explained failure
 
1.       Usually not done intentionally (misinterpretation of law; think have continuance; not counting days correctly, etc.)
 
2.       If get DWOP, immediately file motion for reinstatement
 
                                                                                                                        iii.      By being “verified”, court’s plenary power extended to 75 days
 
b.       Must be filed with clerk within 30 days after order of dismissal
 
c.        Must be served on all parties
 
d.       Note – SOL not tolled if DWOP
 
e.        If no order is signed w/in 75 days, motion deemed overruled by law
 
                                                  ii.      Proving absence of notice
 
1.       Failure of a court to provide adequate notice before dismissing may be proper basis for setting aside the order of dismissal, but appeal may not be available due to lack of record showing no notice given
 
2.       Is such situation, a motion for new trial or a bill or review should be filed
 
a.       That allows extrinsic evidence to be admitted so T Ct has ability to consider/weigh evidence on issue of whether notice was given
 
3.       Notice needs to be given to lead attorney, not just local attorney
 
B.      Continuances
 
a.       Rule 251 – Continuance
 
                                                   i.      No application for a continuance shall be heard before the defendant files his defense, nor shall any continuance be granted except for sufficient cause supported by affidavit, or by consent of the parties, or by operation of law
 
                                                  ii.      Reasons must be supported by affidavit, or consent of parties, or by operation of

lection contests, habeas corpus proceedings for minor children, removal of sheriff, appeals of administrative proceedings
 
b.       General rule – if have fact issue to be adjudicated, have right to jury
 
c.        Not automatic
 
                                                   i.      Jury demand must be timely made; jury fee paid
 
                                                  ii.      Paying fee does not infer a jury demand, those are two separate steps
 
d.       Absolute right to jury ends on appearance day
 
                                                   i.      Need to exercise right before appearance day
 
e.        Rule 216
 
                                                   i.      If party makes demand and pay fee within 30 days of when case is set for trial on non-jury docket, a rebuttable presumption made that request made within “a reasonable time before the date set for trial of the COA on the non-jury docket.”
 
1.       If want absolute right, make jury demand in original pleading
 
2.       Jury is discretionary if fee and/or request made less than 30 days before trial
 
f.        Is request made within a reasonable time?
 
                                                   i.      Would resetting result in unnecessary delay in court’s docket
 
                                                  ii.      Would resetting interfere with handling of the court’s business
 
                                                iii.      Would resetting cause prejudice/injury to the other parties
 
g.        Waiver of right to jury by one party does not create a right in the other party
 
                                                   i.      Failure to appear is deemed waiver of jury
 
B.      Jury Fee, Demand, and Waiver
 
a.       An untimely jury demand can become timely when a case is reset for trial for more than 30 days in the future (so long as three factors of reasonableness met)
 
b.       A technical failure to make payment of nominal jury fee in a timely manner may not result in waiver when record demonstrates the granting of request would not interfere with orderly handling of court’s docket, delay of trial, or injury of other party
 
c.        Timetable provision of 30 days is discretionary
 
d.       Waiver of jury in original trial does not ordinarily deprive party right to timely demand a jury if case is remanded (rule applies to partial and full remands)
 
e.        If you do not agree with jury demand, file motion to strike demand for jury
 
                                                   i.      Show/argue the three factors…place in record
 
f.        In computing the 30 day time period, the first day of the period is excluded, and the last day of the period is included
 
g.        Contractual waiver
 
                                                   i.      Totally okay
 
h.       On appeal, must show error, that was preserved, and is reversible (improper judgment resulted)