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Reading is difficult. As a writer, I help the reader every way I can think of. As a reader, I work hard not to miss the big things in the middle of the road.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

One Court, Half the Work

When I was reading the list of Released Orders and Opinion for Thursday, April 22, 2016 for Beaumont's Ninth Court of Appeals, I had a sense of looking through a telescope from the wrong end. It was a civil, rather than a criminal, day for the Neches Niners (Here's a photo of the court as a ship runs up the river.). Of the seven civil decisions announced that day, three of them were appeals from Montgomery County's 284th Judicial District Court, Honorable Cara Wood presiding,
 which is not so weird when you consider that her court is the only civil-only district court in the largest county of the territory of the Ninth Court of the appeals. My experience with Judge Wood is that she is businesslike, right-of-center, and rules on the facts and the law. Those unfamiliar with my Montgomery County might think that ruling on the facts and the law is unremarkable, but, historically, it is not. Judging is getting better in the county, but in the past it has been bad.
Thursday's first 284th Court decision is American Express Centurion Bank v. Haryanto. Haryanto, a Singaporean citizen, got a credit card from a Utah bank, using his mother's Montgomery County, Texas address. It doesn't appear that Haryanto ever told the bank that he was Singaporean. When the bank sues for an unpaid balance, Haryanto attacks the jurisdiction of the Texas court.
This area of the law has traditionally developed to protect businesses of national scope from being subject to suit in every one-horse town in the Union, and there is plenty of authority that one-off mail-order dealings are insufficient to subject the business to suit at the customer's address. I bet Judge Wood followed this authority.
Though the bank has no connection to Texas, Beaumont says that Haryanto's use of a Texas address to get the account and Haryanto's failure to ever tell the bank about his true residence sufficed to subject him to the jurisdiction of a Montgomery County Texas court to collect the debt, Beaumont reversed the trial court and remanded the case.
The sad subtext of Haryanto is "C'mon, this minimum contacts stuff is not for Singaporean con men to stiff American Express. To hell with case law. Get with the program, Judge Wood."
In decision two-- Khan v. Chaudry-- Beaumont supports Judge Wood's turnover order against Khan. I nominate Khan for Mr. Vexatious Litigation 2014-2016, a guy who will not take no for an answer. This is Khan's sixth original proceeding fighting Chaudry's judgment against him.
The third 284th case is Hegelskaer v. Texas Department of Transportation. TexDOT was working on a two-lane road, one lane at a time, with radio-connected flaggers allowing traffic first one direction than the other. Taking a turn, Hegelskaer, a bicyclist, is surprised by a truck heading toward her, and is injured. Her lawyer thinks of every way possible to argue around sovereign immunity, but in the end Judge Wood rules against her without prejudice. This is the ordinary way to rule on a case ended because of  a lack of needed language in a pleading. If the plaintiff's lawyer can think of a way to plead the case successfully before the statute of limitations runs, that lawyer can make another effort. Hegelskaer appeals, and Beaumont affirms, but TexDOT cross-appeals that the judgment, saying that the case should have been disposed of with prejudice, that is, there should have been no further change to replead later. Beaumont modifies the judgment so that it is with prejudice. 
The court of appeals kills the case dead no matter what Hegelskaer's lawyer thinks of later, and Wood's judgment is changed. I don't think Judge Wood "gets no respect, no respect at all," but she doesn't get enough.

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