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Second Motion for New Trial Did Not Extend Trial Court’s Plenary Power

The Texas Supreme Court issued its first decision of 2008 with today’s orders.  In In re Brookshire Grocery Co. (No. 05-0300), the Court held that a motion for new trial filed within 30 days of judgment, but after a preceding motion for new trial had been overruled, did not extend the trial court’s plenary power under TRCP 329b.  The Court based its decision on language in the rule allowing an amended motion to be filed without leave of court when no preceding motion for new trial has been overruled and the amended motion is filed within 30 days of the judgment.  Chief Justice Jefferson’s majority opinion (in which Justices O’Neill, Medina, Johnson, and Willett joined) also relies on the rule’s history and purpose.

The trial court denied Brookshire’s first motion for new trial and signed a judgment conforming to the jury’s verdict.  More than 30 days after signing the judgment, the trial courtattempted to grant Brookshire’s second motion for new trial, which was filed within 30 days of the judgment but after the first motion was overruled.  Under these facts, the supreme court concluded that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to grant a new trial and agreed with the court of appeals’ decision to order mandamus relief.

Justice Hecht (joined by Justices Wainwright, Brister, and Green) dissented.  The dissenting justices would have held that the second motion extended the plenary period, and thus would have allowed the trial court to rescind its judgment in favor of a new trial.

D. Todd Smith
About the Author

D. Todd Smith is an Austin-based civil appellate specialist who works with trial teams from the earliest stages of litigation. In trial courts, he takes the lead on strategic analysis and briefing, jury charges, and potentially dispositive motions, all with a focus on preserving error and positioning cases for appellate review.

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