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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.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

All the Time in the World to Claim this Error

Many's the post in this blog that has emphasized the importance of preserving error before you can get it reversed in an appeals court. Texas Rule of Appellate Procedure 33. That is, generally, you must clearly inform the trial judge as to what your complaint is in time for the judge to correct the error. And if you do not do so, you cannot complain of the error on appeal. There is one huge exception to this rule, and that is a complaint that a court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction. We've already discussed the importance of making sure that the court you want to appeal to has subject-matter jurisdiction of your case. , a complaint you can make at any time up to the mandate's becoming final--even then, a habeas corpus writ complaining of it would likely prevail. The same principle applies to if it the trial court that lacked jurisdiction.

There is a story about this point of law. I believe it to be apocryphal.

 As a general rule, the people who have been arrested in the last 24 hours are brought before a judge, usually called a magistrate,

  • One job of the magistrate is to listen to one or more prosecutors explain why the State believes the accused probably committed an offence and what offence the State believes it is. This is practically always a pure formality. An arresting officer gets approval to arrest and a designated charge from talking with a prosecutor from the scene of the arrest over radiophone.
  • The magistrate also reads the accused his or her rights again.
  • Magistrate sets bond or makes a finding that no bond will be set.
  • Magistrate asks the accused if he or she claims to be indigent, and, if so, sets up the process for the accused to be interviewed to determine whether or not the accused is eligible for counsel to be appointed at no charge to the accused.
The accused who show up are often a motley crew, often in clothes not washed in days, many of them still drunk from the night before, many marked with the wounds of barroom battles or forceful arrests. And on this particular morning, there are one particularly, loud, obstreperous drunken man. He wouldn't follow the deputies' directions, and he yelled during other peoples' proceedings, and he started scuffles with the other accused people. Finally, the judge,whose main duties involved holding traffic court,  had had enough. He had the bailiffs bring this guy in front of the bench, where, upon hearing of what the man had done the night before--being publically intoxicated somewhere-- the judge pronounced upon him the death penalty, which subdued the fellow, head still spinning from a night of Thunderbird wine.

This is a joke. The trial judge would not have pursued the punishment he pronounced. But the lawyer for the anti-social Thunderbird person's complaint that the court did not have subject-matter jurisdiction for the judgment, could never be held to be too late as long as the accused was still alive.

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