Helping Trial Lawyers Navigate the Appellate System

Third Court Cancels FLDS Oral Argument

By this order, the Third Court of Appeals has canceled the oral argument on the application for emergency stay in In re Sara Steed, et al. (No. 03-08-00235-CV) and has summarily denied the stay.  The court also denied the stay sought in the companion case, In re Faithann Jessop, et al. (No. 03-08-00236-CV).

Before you rush to criticize this decision, consider the reason the court of appeals gave for it.

The court explained that the application for emergency relief complained about a two-page order signed on April 22 and alleged that this order failed to comply with Section 262.201 of the Family Code.  Following its own investigation, however, the appellate court learned that the district court had, on April 21, signed an eight-page Temporary Order Following Adversary Hearing and Notice of Hearing, which the relators neither referenced in nor attached to their emergency motion.  The April 21 order “makes explicit findings with respect to the requirements of section 262.201, temporary conservatorship of the children, possession of and access to the children, temporary child support, temporary medical support, access to medical records, the acquisition of information regarding alternate caregivers who are relatives of the children, and the best interest of the children.”

The court of appeals concluded that the April 21 order, “on its face, addresses statutory requirements” and based its denial of temporary relief on that conclusion.  Whether the order—which requires the children to remain in the possession of the Department of Family and Protective Services—”is supported by sufficient evidence, is the product of a sufficient “full adversary hearing” as required by section 262.201, or is an abuse of discretion are questions for determination on the merits of Relators’ Petition for Writ of Mandamus.”

Moral:  When presenting a motion for temporary emergency relief to an appellate court, be sure and tell the whole story, not selected parts of it.  I don’t know if the relators intentionally omitted the April 21 order or just made a mistake—I’m hoping the latter—but an appellate court’s discovery that you have omitted significant or potentially dispositive facts can only harm your client.

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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