Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Texas Court of Criminal Appeals

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The Texas Commission on Law Enforcement audited the Indian Lake Police Department and found what it believed to be deficiencies in firearms-proficiency records for several volunteer reserve officers. To cure the deficiencies, Appellant John Chambers, then-Police Chief John Chambers, directed a subordinate to falsify the records. The jury found Appellant guilty of 14 courts of tampering with a governmental record with the intent to defraud or harm. On discretionary review, Appellant challenged the denial of a requested jury instruction on whether the records were required to be kept and the sufficiency of the evidence to show his intent to defraud or harm the government. He also claimed the court of appeals did not address his argument about the sufficiency of the evidence to overcome a statutory defense that applied when the falsification of the record has no effect on the governmental purpose for the record. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals held: (1) Appellant was not harmed by the denial of the requested jury instruction; (2) the evidence was insufficient to show intent to defraud or harm; and (3) the court of appeals should be given the opportunity to address his argument about the sufficiency of the evidence to overcome his statutory defense. The Court therefore reversed and remanded for the court of appeals to evaluate Appellant’s statutory defense. View "Chambers v. Texas" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Court of Criminal Appeals’ review centered on whether a trial court could pay an appointed prosecutor at an hourly rate even though the fee schedule approved by the judges of the county only allowed for payment of a fixed fee. Relators (the attorneys appointed to prosecute the defendant) argued that upholding the trial court’s order for payment was appropriate because the trial court’s determination of a reasonable fee for their services was a discretionary call, not a ministerial one. The primary Real Party in Interest (the Collin County Commissioners Court) responded that vacating the trial court’s order for payment was appropriate because the trial court lacked authority to set a fee outside of the fixed rate in the fee schedule approved by the local judges. According to the Commissioners Court, the local rule authorizing the trial court to “opt out” of its own fee schedule conflicts with a statute that requires payment according to that fee schedule. The Court of Criminal Appeals agreed with the Commissioners Court that the statute in question limited the trial court’s authority, and the Court agreed with the court of appeals that the second order for payment should be vacated. View "In re Texas ex rel. Brian Wice v. 5th Judicial District Court of Appeals" on Justia Law

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The City of Plano adopted the 2003 International Property Maintenance Code (IMPC) as part of its local Property Maintenance Code. Appellee was charged by complaint with two violations of section 6-46 and the specific subsections of the IPMC for: (1) not maintaining the exterior of a structure in good repair and in a structurally sound manner; and (2) not supplying hot and cold running water to plumbing fixtures in a house. He was convicted of both counts after separate bench trials. Appellee appealed both cases to the county court at law for trial de novo and filed motions to dismiss the complaints because the State failed to allege that he was given notice that he was in violation of the code and then continued to violate the code as required under subsection 106.3. Appellee's motions were granted, and the State appealed to the Fifth Court of Appeals, which consolidated the two cases. The appellate court affirmed the trial court's orders, holding that individual provisions of the code could not be taken in isolation and that, when taken as a whole, the code clearly required notice. The City filed a petition for discretionary review, arguing that the municipal code created two offenses: the one contained within the original IMPC and the one created by Plano that did not require notice. The Supreme Court granted review on the issue of whether appellee was entitled to notice of violations of a municipal code before his subsequent violations of the code could result in convictions. Holding that he was, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgments of the courts below. View "Texas v. Cooper" on Justia Law

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A Relator filed an application for a writ of mandamus to the Supreme Court after the Court of Appeals dismissed his petitions for writs of mandamus filed in that court for want of jurisdiction. He argued that the appellate court had jurisdiction and its dismissal was in error. He sought issuance of the writ of mandamus to require the court of appeals to consider his petitions on their merits. Upon review, the Supreme Court granted relief: "we perceive no reason why our exclusive Article 11.07 jurisdiction divests an appellate court of jurisdiction to decide the merits of a mandamus petition alleging that a district judge is not ruling on a motion when the relator has no Article 11.07 application pending." The Court conditionally granted mandamus and directed the Fifth Court of Appeals to rescind its decision dismissing relator's petitions for writ of mandamus for want of jurisdiction and to consider the merits of the issues raised. View "Padieu v. Court of Appeals of Texas, Fifth District" on Justia Law