Kessling v. Friendswood ISD (Tex.App.- Houston [14th Dist.] Nov. 3, 2009)(Hedges)
(suit alleging
violations of the Texas Open Meetings Act (TOMA), Texas Public Information Act (TPIA),
Texas Education Code)
Chief Justice Hedges  
Before Chief Justice Hedges, Justices Brock Yates and Frost    
14-07-01063-CV  Nancy Kessling v. Friendswood Independent School District, and Patricia Hanks    
Appeal from 56th District Court of Galveston County
Trial Court Judge: Lonnie Cox
Dissenting Opinion by Justice Frost  Kessling v. Friendswood Independent School District [ISD]  


Nancy Kessling sued appellees, Friendswood Independent School District (“F.I.S.D.") and its superintendent,
Patricia Hanks, for various alleged violations of the
Texas Open Meetings Act ("TOMA"), Texas Public
Information Act
(“TPIA"), and Texas Education Code.  In two issues on appeal, Kessling contends that the
trial court erred in (1) granting summary judgment against her TOMA and TPIA claims, and (2) dismissing her
Education Code claims for want of jurisdiction.  In a cross-appeal, appellees/cross-appellants contend that the
trial court erred in not awarding them attorney's fees.  

We affirm in part and reverse and remand in part.

I.  Background

Kessling styles herself as a “public watchdog," having followed the actions of the F.I.S.D. school board for over
twenty years and “routinely" using TPIA requests to monitor its activities.  Kessling asserts that she lives in the
area served by F.I.S.D., that she pays taxes to F.I.S.D., and that her children attended F.I.S.D. schools.  On
August 9, 2006, she filed the present lawsuit, seeking injunctions and declarations concerning alleged
violations of the TOMA, TPIA, and Education Code.  Kessling's original petition named only superintendent
Hanks as a defendant; FISD was added by later amended petition.  Specifically, in her third amended petition,
the live petition at the time of judgment,[1] Kessling alleged that appellees violated the TOMA by (1)
deliberating illegally after adjournment, (2) failing to post proper notice of topics to be considered in executive
sessions, (3) discussing matters not on the agenda in executive sessions, (4) permitting employees to attend
executive sessions, and (5) failing to keep proper minutes and electronic recordings of meetings.  She further
alleged that appellees violated the TPIA by refusing to either provide certain requested information or request
an attorney general's opinion, which would authorize such refusal, and by untimely or otherwise inappropriately
fulfilling other requests.  She also alleged that appellees violated the Education Code by failing to follow certain
accounting practices and procedures and file certain related reports required under the code.  Kessling sought
declaratory judgment regarding the alleged violations and requested mandamus and injunctive relief regarding
certain past violations and to prevent certain of the violations from reoccurring.

In response to Kessling's original petition, styled “Plaintiff's Original Application for Writ of Mandamus and
Petition for Permanent Injunction," Hanks answered, making general and special denials of the allegations,
raising various affirmative defenses, and requesting attorney's fees under the Education Code for the filing of a
frivolous lawsuit.  Hanks also filed special exceptions, claiming that in the petition, Kessling failed to (1) give fair
notice of the claims asserted, (2) demonstrate standing regarding certain claims, (3) identify specific acts
claimed to be violations or that Kessling was seeking to enjoin, and (4) state a cause of action.[2]  Although
Kessling filed several supplemental petitions, the trial court granted the special exceptions and ordered
Kessling to replead within 30 days to cure the pleading defects.

After Kessling filed a first amended petition, which, inter alia, added F.I.S.D. as a defendant, and then a second
amended petition, appellees filed a combined motion for summary judgment and plea to the jurisdiction.  In the
summary judgment portion of this pleading, appellees contended that Kessling's TOMA and TPIA claims were
moot as they related to actions in the past and requested an impermissible advisory opinion as they related to
actions in the future.  In regards to the TPIA claims, appellees additionally argued that Kessling failed to follow
the proper procedures for bringing an action for declaratory judgment or injunctive relief under that act:  
specifically that she should have filed a complaint with the district or county attorney for Galveston County,
where F.I.S.D. is located.  In the plea to the jurisdiction portion of appellees' pleading, appellees asserted that
the trial court did not have jurisdiction over Kessling's Education Code claims because appellees had
governmental immunity with regard to such claims.  Appellees further argued that Kessling lacked standing to
raise the Education Code claims because the code did not provide for a right of private action and because
Kessling failed to allege an injury which was distinct to her as opposed to effecting the general public.

In her response to the motion and the plea, Kessling maintained that her TOMA claims were not rendered moot
by the fact that alleged violations had occurred in the past and that it was thus not improper for a court to
declare that prior actions violated the TOMA.  She further argued that her allegations established a “pattern
and practice" of TOMA violations; thus, mandamus and injunctive relief would be appropriate to prevent future
violations.  Regarding her TPIA claims, Kessling asserted that according to established caselaw, the TPIA
permits private citizens to bring direct action against governmental bodies to enforce TPIA provisions.  With
regard to appellees' plea to the jurisdiction, Kessling asserted that she had standing and the trial court had
jurisdiction over her claims because members of the public have a right to seek (1) mandamus relief to compel
a public official to perform a ministerial duty, and (2) declaratory relief against state officials who act without
legal or statutory authority.  She argued that the duties at issue in her Education Code claims, namely
compliance with certain statutory accounting policies and procedures, were ministerial acts requiring no
discretion, and thus, governmental immunity was not applicable.  She further contended that permitting F.I.S.D.
to avoid its Education Code accounting duties would effectively stymie public monitoring of its financial activities
because under the TPIA, a government entity cannot be required to create documents but can be required only
to produce documents it has already created.  As discussed above, with the trial court's permission, Kessling
subsequently filed her third amended petition.

The trial court granted the motion for summary judgment and plea to the jurisdiction without specifying the
bases therefor.  Appellees then moved for attorney's fees.  The trial court thereafter filed another order, again
stating that the summary judgment motion and jurisdictional plea were granted and that all of Kessling's claims
were dismissed with prejudice.  Although the order does not mention appellees' motion for fees, the trial court
expressly denied that motion during an oral hearing.

II.  Kessling's Issues

As stated, in two issues, Kessling contends that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment against her
TOMA and TPIA claims and in dismissing her Education Code claims for want of jurisdiction.

A.  Summary Judgment [3]

In her first issue, Kessling contends that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment against her TOMA
and TPIA claims.  She asserts that the trial court's legal conclusions were in error and that genuine issues of
material fact exist precluding summary judgment.  We analyze the grant of a traditional motion for summary
judgment under well-established standards of review.  See generally Tex. R. Civ. P. 166a; Nixon v. Mr. Prop.  
Mgmt. Co., Inc., 690 S.W.2d 546, 548-49 (Tex. 1985).  The movant bears the burden to show that there is no
genuine issue of material fact and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.  Tex. R. Civ. P. 166a(c).  We
review the motion and any evidence de novo, taking as true all evidence favorable to the nonmovant, and
indulging every reasonable inference and resolving any doubts in the nonmovant's favor.  Valence Operating
Co. v. Dorsett, 164 S.W.3d 656, 661 (Tex. 2005).

1.  TOMA Claims

The Texas Legislature enacted the TOMA in 1967 to ensure “that the public has the opportunity to be informed
concerning the transactions of public business."  Acker v. Tex. Water Comm'n, 790 S.W.2d 299, 300 (Tex.
1990) (quoting Act of May 23, 1967, 60th Leg., R.S., ch. 271, § 7, 1967 Tex. Gen. Laws 597, 598).  Under the
TOMA, all meetings of governmental bodies must be kept open to the public unless the law expressly
authorizes a closed session.  See Tex. Gov't Code. § 551.002.  The TOMA contains provisions governing how
and when notices of meetings are to be posted and what the contents of those notices must be.  See id. §§
551.041-.043, 551.045, 551.047, 551.051-.052.  The TOMA additionally imposes certain requirements unique
to closed sessions, including that a certified agenda or electronic recording must be kept and that any vote or
final action must occur in an open meeting.  See id. §§ 551.102-.103.  Government Code section 551.142(a)
provides that A[a]n interested person . . . may bring an action by mandamus or injunction to stop, prevent, or
reverse a violation or threatened violation of [TOMA] by members of a governmental body."  As explained
above, in the present action, Kessling seeks a declaration concerning appellees' alleged prior TOMA violations
and a mandamus or injunction barring similar violations in the future.

In their motion for summary judgment, appellees argued that Kessling's TOMA claims were moot to the extent
that they related to meetings in the past and requested an impermissible advisory opinion to the extent that
they related to future meetings.  Both arguments essentially question whether Kessling has raised a justiciable
controversy.  The first argument asserts that claims concerning past meetings are moot, and the latter
argument questions whether claims concerning future meetings have ripened.  “To constitute a justiciable
controversy, there must exist a real and substantial controversy involving genuine conflict of tangible interests
and not merely a theoretical dispute."  Bonham State Bank v. Beadle, 907 S.W.2d 465, 467 (Tex. 1995).  
Whether a justiciable controversy exists, and thus whether claims have become moot on the one hand and
whether they have ripened on the other, is a threshold question that implicates subject-matter jurisdiction.  See,
e.g., Patterson v. Planned Parenthood of Houston & Se. Tex., Inc., 971 S.W.2d 439, 442 (Tex. 1998)
(discussing ripeness); City of Houston v. Clark, 252 S.W.3d 561, 568 (Tex. App.- Houston [14th Dist.] 2008, no
pet.) (discussing mootness).  “A case becomes moot if a controversy ceases to exist or the parties lack a legally
cognizable interest in the outcome."  Allstate Ins. Co. v. Hallman, 159 S.W.3d 640, 642 (Tex. 2005).  The
doctrine of ripeness “asks whether the facts have developed sufficiently so that an injury has occurred or is
likely to occur, rather than being contingent or remote."  Patterson, 971 S.W.2d at 442.

Appellees base their justiciability arguments on the Austin Court of Appeals' analysis in Cornyn v. City of
Garland, 994 S.W.2d 258 (Tex. App.- Austin 1999, no pet.).  In Cornyn, the trial court denied by way of
summary judgment the complainant's requests for a declaratory judgment that prior city counsel meeting
notices were deficient and a permanent injunction and writ of mandamus requiring full TOMA compliance in the
future.  994 S.W.2d at 266.  The Austin court affirmed, holding that the declaratory judgment claim was moot
and that the request for injunction and for writ of mandamus required an advisory opinion (i.e., was not yet ripe
for decision).  Id. at 267.[4]  Other courts, however, including this one, have arrived at different conclusions
from those of the Cornyn court regarding the mootness of prior TOMA violations and the ripeness of
threatened future violations.

a.  Future Meetings

For reasons which will become apparent, we begin by addressing the claims concerning threatened future
violations.  In Harris County Emergency Service District No. 1 v. Harris County Emergency Corps, we upheld an
injunction preventing the appellant governmental entity from holding certain types of meetings in the future
without proper notice.  999 S.W.2d 163, 171 (Tex. App.- Houston [14th Dist.] 1999, no pet.).  As authority, we
cited section 551.142(a), which authorizes "[a]n interested person . . . [to] bring an action by mandamus or
injunction to stop, prevent, or reverse a violation or threatened violation of the TOMA."  Id. (quoting 551.142(a))
(emphasis added).  We looked to a pattern of past improper meeting notices to support an injunction against
holding future meetings without proper notice.

To avoid the justiciability challenges, Kessling is only required to plead sufficient facts to support jurisdiction.  
See City of Waco v. Lopez, 259 S.W.3d 147, 150 (Tex. 2008).  Kessling's pleadings are sufficient to make a
claim under Harris County Emergency in that she explicitly alleged a pattern and practice of certain kinds of
TOMA violations and requested injunctive and mandamus relief to prevent future violations of the same nature.  
Consequently, the trial court erred in granting summary judgment against Kessling's claims concerning future
meeting notices.[5]

b.  Past Meetings

We now turn to Kessling's claims with regards to past violations.  In City of Farmers Branch v. Ramos, 235 S.W.
3d 462 (Tex. App.- Dallas 2007, no pet.), the Dallas Court of Appeals also deviated from the Cornyn court's
conclusions.  In Ramos, the complainant alleged that the city council had violated the TOMA on specific
instances when it passed certain ordinances, and the city countered that questions concerning such alleged
violations were rendered moot because the ordinances in question had been subsequently repealed.  235 S.W.
3d at 468-69.  The court of appeals rejected the city's position, stating that: “If a governmental body illegally
deliberates and decides an issue in closed session, repealing the action so that it can be retaken in a later
setting does not vindicate the very right protected by TOMA. . . .  'Our citizens are entitled to more than a
result.  They are entitled not only to know what government decides but to observe how and why every decision
is reached.'"  Id. at 469-70 (quoting Acker v. Tex. Water Comm'n, 790 S.W.2d 299, 300 (Tex. 1990)).  The
court then concluded that the complainant's request for a declaration of TOMA violations, coupled with a
potential remedy involving production of certified agenda from the illegally closed meetings, established that the
issue was not moot.  Id. at 470.

We agree with the Ramos court that a TOMA violation is not rendered moot simply because it occurred in the
past but remains a live controversy insofar as it supports a future remedy.  Kessling's claims of past TOMA
violations and threatened future violations are, in fact, inextricably intertwined.  The remedy that she requests
based on past violations is the prohibition (by mandamus or injunction) of future violations.  She attempts to
prove the likelihood of those future violations by demonstrating a pattern and practice of violations in the past.  
Thus, following Harris County Emergency and Ramos, the controversy regarding past violations has not
become moot, and the controversy regarding future violations is ripe.  Consequently, the trial court erred in
granting summary judgment against Kessling's TOMA claims on these bases.  We sustain Kessling's first issue.  
It is important to note, however, that our resolution of this issue does not mean that Kessling ultimately has valid
TOMA claims or that she has demonstrated a pattern and practice of TOMA violations.  These questions were
not raised by appellees' motion.  We hold only that Kessling has sufficiently pleaded her TOMA claims.

2.  TPIA Claims

In 1973, the Texas Legislature passed what is now known as the TPIA.  See Act of June 14, 1973, 63rd Leg., R.
S., ch. 424, §§ 1, 14(d), 1973 Tex. Gen. Laws 1112, 1118; City of Garland v. Dallas Morning News, 22 S.W.3d
351, 355 (Tex. 2000).  The purpose of the TPIA is “to provide public access 'at all times to complete information
about the affairs of government and the official acts of public officials and employees.'"  City of Garland, 22 S.W.
3d at 355-56 (quoting Tex. Gov't Code § 552.001).  In furtherance of this policy, a governmental body must
promptly produce requested public information.  See Tex. Gov't Code § 552.221.  The TPIA defines “public
information" as information that “under a law or ordinance or in connection with the transaction of official
business, is collected, assembled, or maintained by a governmental body; or for a governmental body and the
governmental body owns the information or has a right of access to it."  Id. § 552.021.  The TPIA also exempts
certain categories of information from disclosure.  See id. §§ 552.101-.123.  In order to claim that particular
information falls within an exemption, when the issue has not been previously determined, a governmental body
must request an Attorney General's opinion on the matter.  See id. § 552.301.  If the governmental body fails to
do so, the information is presumed to be public.  Id. § 552.302.

As stated above, in her petition, Kessling alleged that appellees had violated the TPIA by refusing to either
provide particular information or request an attorney general's opinion on the matter.  She further charged that
appellees had failed to timely or properly provide other requested information.  As relief, Kessling requested a
declaratory judgment that appellees had violated the TPIA, as well as injunctive relief and a writ of mandamus
requiring appellees to comply with TPIA provisions and timely disclose the requested information.  In their
motion, appellees raised two grounds for summary judgment on Kessling's TPIA claims.  First, they argued that
under TPIA section 552.3215, Kessling was not permitted to file her claims seeking declaratory judgment and
injunctive relief directly with a court but first had to file a complaint with the local district attorney or county
attorney.  Tex. Gov't Code § 552.3215.  Second, appellees argued, again based on the Cornyn case, that
Kessling's TPIA claims regarding past requests had all become moot and that her claims regarding potential
future requests sought an impermissible advisory opinion.  We will address each ground in turn.

a.  Section 552.3215

As a matter of statutory interpretation, we consider the question of whether section 552.3215 prevents Kessling
from filing her declaratory judgment and injunctive claims directly with a court under a de novo standard.  City
of Rockwall v. Hughes, 246 S.W.3d 621, 625 (Tex. 2008).  When a statute's language is clear and
unambiguous, we need not resort to rules of construction or other extrinsic aids.  Id. at 626.  In enacting TPIA
section 552.3215, the Texas Legislature established a scheme through which TPIA complainants can file a
complaint with a district attorney or county attorney, who then must assess whether a violation has occurred
and determine whether to pursue the matter by first notifying the governmental entity and, if not remedied, then
filing an action for declaratory judgment or injunctive relief.  Tex. Gov't Code § 552.3215.  Subsection (a)(1)
defines a “[c]omplainant" as “a person who claims to be the victim of a violation of [the TPIA]."  Id. § 552.3215(a)
(1).  Subsection (b) states that “[a]n action for a declaratory judgment or injunctive relief may be brought in
accordance with this section against a governmental body that violates [the TPIA]."  Id. § 552.3215(b).  
Subsection (c) permits a district or county attorney to bring the action in the name of the state, and subsection
(e) states that a “complainant may file a complaint" with the county or district attorney.  Id. § 552.3215(c), (e).  
Other sections guide the district or county attorney's decision-making process, require notification to the
governmental entity before suit can be filed, and provide complainants with an additional opportunity to seek
redress with the Texas Attorney General should the local district or county attorney decline to pursue the
matter.  Id. § 552.3215(g), (h), (i), (j).

Most significantly for our purposes, the final subsection of the provision, subsection (k), states that A[a]n action
authorized by this section is in addition to any other civil, administrative, or criminal action provided by this
chapter or another law."  Id. § 552.3215(k).  Prior to enactment of section 552.3215, it was clear that TPIA
requestors could seek relief from a governmental entity's refusal to produce information by directly filing a
declaratory judgment action under the UDJA against the entity.  See City of Garland, 22 S.W.3d at 357-58
(collecting cases where TPIA requestors have sued for declaratory judgment as the sole remedy, as well as
cases where requestors sought declaratory judgment in addition to mandamus relief, and holding that the UDJA
supports declaratory judgment actions in the TPIA context); Dominguez v. Gilbert, 48 S.W.3d 789, 796 (Tex.
App.- Austin 2001, no pet.) (holding TPIA requestor had standing to seek declaratory judgment under the
UDJA).  Appellees argue that the enactment of section 552.3215 eliminated this previously available avenue for
redress.  However, given that nothing in section 552.3215 expressly or implicitly restricts the preexisting right of
action, and given that subsection (k) expressly states that an action authorized therein is “in addition to" any
other type of action available, we hold that section 552.3215 does not prevent a complainant from directly filing
a TPIA declaratory judgment claim.[6]  In effect, section 552.3215 gives a complainant an avenue for seeking
redress which does not require the complainant to incur the expense of filing a lawsuit on his or her own
behalf:  a lawsuit undertaken by, and in the name of, the state.  See Tex. Gov't Code § 552.3215(c).  Nothing in
section 552.3215 suggests that a complainant cannot file a lawsuit in his or her own behalf, name, and
expense.  The trial court erred to the extent it held otherwise.[7]

b.  Justiciability

Next, we turn to appellees' justiciability contentions, i.e., that Kessling's TPIA claims regarding past requests
had all become moot and that her claims regarding potential future requests were not yet ripe.  As discussed
above, "[t]o constitute a justiciable controversy, there must exist a real and substantial controversy involving
genuine conflict of tangible interests and not merely a theoretical dispute."  Bonham State Bank, 907 S.W.2d at
467.  A case is considered moot when either a controversy has ceased to exist or the parties lack a legally
cognizable interest, Hallman, 159 S.W.3d at 642, and a controversy does not ripen until an injury has occurred
or is likely to occur, Patterson, 971 S.W.2d at 442.  We begin by noting that Kessling's TPIA violation claims can
be grouped into two categories:  (1) claims that certain requests have gone unfulfilled, and (2) claims that
although other requests have been fulfilled, something improper occurred regarding how they were fulfilled.[8]

Claims that certain requests have gone unfulfilled are neither moot nor unripe.  Because there is a live
controversy regarding these claims, the trial court possesses subject matter jurisdiction to resolve the
controversy.  See Patterson, 971 S.W.2d at 442.  Although in their appellate briefing, appellees further argue
that (1) Kessling requested an overbroad order, (2) Kessling failed to plead her claims with sufficient specificity,
and (3) FISD has not refused to provide any existing documents and cannot be required to create documents
to fulfill TPIA requests, appellees did not raise these points as grounds for summary judgment below.  
Accordingly, we cannot affirm the judgment on these bases.  See Knott, 128 S.W.3d at 216.  Summary
judgment was improvidently granted with regard to Kessling's claims of unfulfilled TPIA requests.

Regarding her claims concerning requests that were ultimately fulfilled, Kessling does not argue in her briefing
to this court that she is entitled to seek mandamus or injunctive relief, as she did in connection with her TOMA
claims, instructing appellees to follow the law in the future.  She neither argues that TPIA allows for such relief
nor seeks any other injunctive or other affirmative relief as her requests have been fulfilled.  Instead, with
regard to her fulfilled requests, she appears to seek only a declaration that violations have occurred in the past
in connection with those requests.  In the absence of a request for injunctive or other affirmative relief, a
declaration that past violations have occurred would have no impact on the rights of the parties.  See Speer v.
Presbyterian Children's Home & Serv. Agency, 847 S.W.2d 227, 229 (Tex. 1993) (citing McKie v. Bullock, 491 S.
W.2d 659, 660 (Tex. 1973), for the proposition that “when the action sought to be enjoined is accomplished
and 'suitable coercive relief' becomes impossible, it is improper to grant declaratory relief"); City of Shoreacres
v. Tex. Comm'n of Envtl. Quality, 166 S.W.3d 825, 838-39 (Tex. App.- Austin 2005, no pet.) (holding that
party's request for declaratory judgment did not change the fact that no justiciable controversy existed because
the court could grant no relief having a practical legal effect on the controversy).  Kessling's claims regarding
fulfilled TPIA requests are therefore moot.  Consequently, the trial court did not err in dismissing these claims.[9]

In short, the trial court erred in dismissing Kessling's TOMA claims as well as her TPIA claims regarding
requests that have allegedly gone unfulfilled, but the court has not been shown to have erred in dismissing
Kessling's TPIA claims concerning requests which were ultimately fulfilled.  Accordingly, we sustain Kessling's
first issue in part and overrule it in part.

B.  Plea to Jurisdiction

In her second issue, Kessling contends that the trial court erred in granting appellees' plea to the jurisdiction
and, thus, in dismissing her Education Code claims for want of jurisdiction.  We review a trial court's grant of a
plea to the jurisdiction under a de novo standard.  Lopez, 259 S.W.3d at 150.  The focus of such review is on
“whether facts have been alleged that affirmatively demonstrate jurisdiction in the trial court."  Id.  In making this
determination, we construe pleadings liberally in favor of the plaintiff.  Id.  Furthermore, we may not assess the
merit of the plaintiff's claims.  County of Cameron v. Brown, 80 S.W.3d 549, 555 (Tex. 2002).  If a fact question
regarding jurisdiction exists, the plea should not have been granted; however, if pleadings or evidence
affirmatively negate a jurisdictional fact, the plea may have been properly granted even in the absence of an
opportunity to amend.  See Lopez, 259 S.W.3d at 150.  When a plea to the jurisdiction challenges the plaintiff's
pleadings and not the existence of jurisdictional facts, we assume the facts pleaded to be true.  See Westbrook
v. Penley, 231 S.W.3d 389, 405 (Tex. 2007).

In her petition, Kessling claimed that appellees violated the Education Code by failing to follow certain
accounting practices and failing to generate certain reports required under the code and associated
administrative rules.  See Tex. Educ. Code §§ 39.023, 44.002, 44.003, 44.007, 44.0071; 19 Tex. Admin. Code
§§ 61.1025 (2001, 2005) (Tex. Educ. Agency, Public Education Information Management System Data and
Reporting), 109.1 (1996, 2002) (Tex. Educ. Agency, Financial Accounting).  Kessling requested a declaratory
judgment and injunctive and mandamus relief to require appellees to adopt an appropriate accounting system
which conforms to the Education Code requirements.  She further claimed that appellees' failure to generate
required accounting reports defeated her TPIA requests for such reports because, under the TPIA, a
governmental body can be required to release only information in existence and cannot be forced to create the
requested information.  See A&T Consultants, Inc. v. Sharp, 904 S.W.2d 668, 676 (Tex. 1995).  In their plea,
appellees asserted governmental immunity.  They also asserted that Kessling lacked standing because (1) the
Education Code does not provide for a private right of action on these accounting matters, and (2) Kessling
failed to allege a distinct injury.

We begin by addressing the standing grounds in the plea to the jurisdiction.  A party seeking affirmative relief
must have standing to invoke a court's subject matter jurisdiction.  DaimlerChrysler Corp. v. Inman, 252 S.W.3d
299, 304 (Tex. 2008).  “For standing, a plaintiff must be personally aggrieved; his alleged injury must be
concrete and particularized, actual or imminent, not hypothetical."  Id. at 304-05.  If the plaintiff does not allege
real and personal injury to himself or herself, it is irrelevant whether the defendant acted improperly.  See id. at

Appellees are correct, and Kessling does not dispute, that the Education Code does not contain any provision
authorizing a private right of action for complaints concerning a school district's failure to follow required
accounting practices or generate required financial reports.  To the contrary, the provisions Kessling relies
upon give oversight on these matters to other governmental actors.  See Tex. Educ. Code §§ 39.023
(Commissioner of Education), 44.002 (State Board of Education), 44.003 (district superintendents), 44.007
(State Board), 44.0071 (Commissioner); 19 Tex. Admin. Code §§ 61.1025 (Commissioner and groups
appointed by the Commissioner), 109.1 (Commissioner, State Board, and state auditor).[10]

Kessling instead argues that she has standing to compel, through mandamus, a public official to perform a
ministerial duty.  See Blum v. Lanier, 997 S.W.2d 259, 263 (Tex. 1999).[11]  She further contends that she has
standing to “seek declaratory relief against state officials who allegedly act without legal or statutory authority."  
See Tex. Natural Res. Conservation Comm'n v. IT-Davy, 74 S.W.3d 849, 855 (Tex. 2002).  Such arguments,
however, do not obviate the prerequisite for standing of a particularized injury.  See Inman, 252 S.W.3d at 304-
05.  Indeed, the Texas Supreme Court has expressly noted that in order to have standing for a declaratory
judgment claim, a member of the public must allege Aa particularized injury distinct from that suffered by the
general public."  Bland I.S.D. v. Blue,

34 S.W.3d 547, 555-56 (Tex. 2000).[12]  Kessling contends that appellees' failure to follow mandatory financial
guidelines and prepare mandatory financial reports results in her failure to:  (1) get her TPIA requests for those
reports fulfilled, and (2) properly review FISD's financial activities by making productive TPIA requests.  In other
words, Kessling maintains that appellees' refusal to follow the dictates of the Education Code defeats her right
to access to information under the TPIA.  Kessling's argument, however, is defeated by the very statutes upon
which she relies.  As discussed above, under the Education Code provisions, she has no private right of
enforcement, see Texas Education Code §§ 39.023, 44.002, 44.003, 44.007, 44.0071; under the TPIA, she
has no right to require a governmental entity to create a document that it does not already possess, see Sharp,
904 S.W.2d at 676.  Because Kessling has no right to require appellees to meet the dictates of the Education
Code provisions either through the TPIA or the Education Code itself, she does not have a particularized injury
from the appellees' alleged failure to do so.  In short, she has no standing to make these claims.  See Inman,
252 S.W.3d at 304-05.  To the extent that Kessling wishes to complain generally about the logic or fairness, as
opposed to the constitutionality, of the statutory schemes, she should address the Texas Legislature.  The trial
court did not err in dismissing Kessling's Education Code claims for lack of standing.  We overrule Kessling's
second issue.

III.  Cross-Appeal for Attorney's Fees

In the sole issue in their cross-appeal, appellees/cross-appellants contend that the trial court erred in declining
to award them attorney's fees either under the UDJA or the Education Code.  Under the UDJA, a trial court may
award costs and reasonable and necessary attorney's fees as are equitable and just.  Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem.
Code § 37.004.  A court may conclude that it is not equitable or just to award even reasonable and necessary
fees.  Bocquet v. Herring, 972 S.W.2d 19, 21 (Tex. 1998).  Under the Education Code, a trial court may award
attorney's fees to a defendant if (1) the suit was dismissed or judgment rendered in favor of the independent
school district or school district employee, and (2) the court finds that the suit was frivolous, unreasonable, and
without foundation.  Tex. Educ. Code §§ 11.161, 22.055.  We review the court's refusal to award fees under
either statute under an abuse of discretion standard.  Bocquet, 972 S.W.2d at 21 (UDJA); Loeffler v. Lytle I.S.
D., 211 S.W.3d 331, 350 (Tex. App.- San Antonio 2006, pet. denied) (Education Code).

Because Kessling was wholly successful on her appeal of the summary judgment against her TOMA claims and
at least partially successful on her TPIA claims, we will consider only her Education Code claims in addressing
appellees' cross-appeal.  While Kessling's Education Code claims are ultimately meritless, we cannot say that
they were frivolous, unreasonable, and without foundation.  The arguments were novel and were grounded in
statutory and case law, even though, in the end, they were incorrect.  Accordingly, the trial court did not abuse
its discretion in declining to award attorney's fees under the Education Code.  See Tex. Educ. Code §§ 11.161,
22.055.  Similarly, given that Kessling successfully appealed judgment against several of her UDJA based
claims, and the claims on which she was unsuccessful were nonetheless not frivolous or without foundation in
the law, we cannot say that the trial court erred in refusing to find that a grant of attorney's fees would be
equitable and just.  Accordingly, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in declining to award fees under the
UDJA.  We overrule appellees' sole cross-appeal issue.

IV.  Conclusion

In summary, the trial court erred in granting summary judgment against Kessling's TOMA claims and against
her claims of unfulfilled TPIA requests.  The trial court properly granted judgment against Kessling's claims
concerning TPIA requests that have been met.  The court properly dismissed her Education Code claims for
want of jurisdiction.  The trial court did not abuse its discretion in declining to award attorney's fees to
appellees.  We remand to the trial court for further consideration of Kessling's TOMA claims and her claims of
unfulfilled TPIA requests.

Adele Hedges

Chief Justice

Panel consists of Chief Justice Hedges and Justices Yates and Frost. (Frost, J. Dissenting)

[1]  Kessling filed her third amended petition after appellees' motion for summary judgment was filed and after the deadline
passed for amendment.  The trial court expressly granted leave to file the third amended petition during an oral hearing before
final judgment was entered.  The third amended petition was therefore the live petition at the time of judgment.

[2]  In her special exceptions, Hanks provided eleven paragraphs of detailed exceptions, challenging specific paragraphs of
Kessling's petition.  The description in the text above is intended solely as a brief synopsis of the assertions.

[3]  For consistency's sake, we adopt the parties' labeling of the TOMA and TPIA discussions as pertaining to the grant of
summary judgment and their labeling of the Education Code discussion as pertaining to the grant of the plea to the jurisdiction.  
Such labeling is not intended to substantively impact the analysis.

[4]  Regarding past acts, the Austin Court also rejected the complainant's assertion of an exception to the mootness doctrine,
which would permit judicial review of acts that are capable of repetition but evade review.  Id. (quoting 551.142(a)); see also
Williams v. Lara, 52 S.W.3d 171, 184-85 (Tex. 2001) (discussing the “capable of repetition, yet evading review" exception to the
mootness doctrine).  This mootness exception is not raised in the present appeal.

[5]  Appellees are misguided in their attempt to discredit any precedential value of Harris County Emergency based on factual
and procedural distinctions between that case and the one currently before us.

[6]  There is, additionally, no indication in the legislative history, cited by appellees or discovered by our research, that section
552.3215 was intended to replace or extinguish any existing rights of action.  To the contrary, the legislative history is replete with
comments akin to subsection (k), i.e., that the newly created action is in addition to any other available actions.

[7]  We additionally note that even if appellees were correct in their interpretation of section 552.3215, the section would still not
have been grounds for dismissing all of Kessling's TPIA claims.  Kessling additionally sought a writ of mandamus, which is
expressly permitted under TPIA section 552.321 when a governmental entity refuses to request an attorney general's opinion or
to produce material previously determined to be public information.  Tex. Gov't Code § 552.321.

[8]  Among her claims that certain TPIA requests have gone unfulfilled, Kessling asserts that (1) on November 17, 2003, she
requested documents relating to September, October, and November board meetings, but she did not receive coded payroll
statements; (2) she has not received all of the check registers that she requested on November 17, 2003; (3) FISD has failed to
respond to a February 23, 2005, request for “Payment of Bills" and “Financial Reports"; (4) FISD has failed to provide a “list of
educators" she requested on November 14, 2005; and (5) FISD failed to provide a signature authority card for a bank account,
also requested on November 14, 2005.  Among her claims regarding requests which were ultimately fulfilled, Kessling asserts
that FISD (1) failed to provide “prompt access" to board agenda and meeting minutes as well as banking documents she
requested on February 28, 2004; (2) treated her differently than district employees and members of the press by not providing her
“without charge and without request" a board agenda book; (3) failed to make certain bank statements available until Kessling
made a second request; (4) admitted that “Tax Collector Bank Statements" had been omitted from the response to a prior
request; (5) produced “Quarterly Investment Reports" untimely; and (6) failed to produce requested “Letters to Management,"
which Kessling subsequently obtained from another source.

[9]  Obviously, we disagree with the dissent's conclusion that Kessling briefed the issue of whether the TPIA affords her the right
to seek  mandamus or injunctive relief instructing appellees to follow the TPIA in the future.  Even if her briefing could be liberally
construed as having raised the issue, she certainly does not offer any argument or authority specifically on this issue.  See Tex.
R. Civ. P. 38.1(i) (“The brief must contain a clear and concise argument for the contentions made, with appropriate citations to
authority and to the record.").

For these reasons, we also disagree with the dissent's additional conclusion that the trial court erred in granting summary
judgment against Kessling's claims regarding fulfilled TPIA requests.  The dissent appears to reach its conclusion based on the
majority's analysis of Kessling's similar TOMA claims.  However, it is far from clear whether the TPIA and interpretive case law
supports the dissent's conclusion that this issue should be analyzed the same as it is under the TOMA.  We express no opinion
as to whether a mandamus or injunction requiring appellees to follow the TPIA in the future would be proper under the law had
such issue been briefed.

The dissent suggests that we are addressing the merits of   Kessling's claims regarding fulfilled TPIA requests.  To the contrary,
as explained in the preceding text, we find that those claims are moot and thus the trial court, and this court, lacks subject-matter
jurisdiction over those claims.  See, e.g., Labrado v. County of El Paso, 132 S.W.3d 581, 589 (Tex. App.- El Paso 2004, no pet.).

[10]  As appellees point out, other sections of the Education Code also provide the Texas Education Agency (TEA), the
Commissioner of Education, and the State Board of Education with general oversight of school districts' financial reporting.  See
Tex. Educ. Code §§ 7.021(b)(13) (mandating the TEA "review school district budgets, audit reports, and other fiscal reports");
7.055(b)(36) (requiring the commissioner to report annually on “the status of school district fiscal management"); 7.102
(requiring the State Board to adopt rules concerning district budgets and audits of financial accounts).

[11]  Kessling contends that having the reports required by the Education Code prepared is a ministerial act by a public official.  
Kessling acknowledges that the actual preparation of the reports may require an accountant's discretion but argues that having
the reports prepared is a ministerial not discretionary function because it is mandated by the code.

[12]  One exception to the rule requiring a “particularized injury" applies when a taxpayer alleges an illegal expenditure of public
funds.  Bland I.S.D., 34 S.W.3d at 556.  Kessling does not rely upon this exception in the present case.