law-contempt | civil vs criminal contempt | habeas corpus remedy |
NO DIRECT APPEAL OF CONTEMPT ORDER ---> HABEAS CORPUS
A court of appeals lacks jurisdiction to consider on direct appeal a trial court's contempt order, including a
refusal to hold a party in contempt, because such an order is not a final, appealable judgment. See Norman v.
Norman, 692 S.W.2d 655, 655 (Tex. 1985); In re Office of Atty. Gen. of Tex., 215 S.W.3d 913, 915-16 (Tex.
App.-Fort Worth 2007, orig. proceeding); Chambers v. Rosenberg, 916 S.W.2d 633, 634 (Tex. App.-Austin
1996, writ denied); Pruett v. Pruett, 754 S.W.2d 802, 803 (Tex. App.-Tyler 1988, no writ). This rule applies
even when the contempt order is "`appealed along with a judgment that is appealable.'" In re Office of Atty.
Gen., 215 S.W.3d at 915 (quoting Cadle Co. v. Lobingier, 50 S.W.3d 662, 671 (Tex. App.-Fort Worth 2001,
pet. denied)); see In re S.R.O., 143 S.W.3d 237, 248 (Tex. App.-Waco 2004, no pet.). Contempt proceedings
are not appealable because they "are not concerned with disposing of all claims and parties before the court,
as are judgments; instead, contempt proceedings involve a court's enforcement of its own orders, regardless of
the status of the claims between the parties before it." In re Office of Atty. Gen., 215 S.W.3d at 915-16 (citing
Cadle, 50 S.W.3d at 671).
In certain instances, a trial court may enforce a divorce decree by contempt. See Tex. Fam. Code Ann. §
9.012 (West 2006). In enforcing a divorce decree, the trial court also may render further orders, render a
money judgment, and award costs and reasonable attorney’s fees for the enforcement action. See Tex. Fam.
Code Ann. § 9.006 –.014. To the extent that a trial court uses its contempt power, this court lacks appellate
jurisdiction to review the trial court’s action, but this court may review the action in a habeas corpus
proceeding, if there is a current restraint on relator’s liberty, or in a mandamus proceeding, if there is no such
restraint. See Rosser v. Squier, 902 S.W.2d 962, 962 (Tex. 1995); In re Evans, 130 S.W.3d 472, 487 (Tex.
App.—Houston [14th Dist.] 2004, orig. proceeding).
In an original proceeding regarding a contempt order, this court will grant relief if a relator shows that the order
underlying the contempt is void, or if the relator shows that the contempt order itself is void. See In re Johnson,
No. 14-09-00775-CV, 2009 WL 4345405, at *2 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] Dec. 3, 2009, orig.
proceeding) (mem. op.). A contempt order may be void for various reasons, including a showing by the relator
that the evidence is legally insufficient to support a finding beyond a reasonable doubt that the relator violated
a reasonably specific order with willful intent. See In re Long, 984 S.W.2d 623, 626–27 (Tex. 1999) (stating
that court cannot in a mandamus proceeding weigh the evidence supporting contempt findings but that court
can determine whether a contempt judgment is void because there is no evidence of contempt); Ex parte
Rosser, 899 S.W.2d at 385 (noting that a contempt conviction for disobedience to a court order requires proof
beyond a reasonable doubt of (1) a reasonably specific order, (2) a violation of the order, and (3) the willful
intent to violate the order). But, the relator bears the burden of showing entitlement to relief, and this court
presumes that the contempt order and the order underlying it are valid, unless the relator discharges the
burden of showing otherwise. See In re Johnson, 2009 WL 4345405, at *2.
TEXAS SUPREME COURT CONTEMPT CASELAW
In Re Zandi, No. 070919 (Tex. May 30, 2008)(per curiam) (family law, child support contempt, habeas corpus
granted, due process violated, insufficient notice of charges)
IN RE REZA ZANDI; from Denton County; 2nd district (02-07-00348-CV, ___ S.W.3d ___, 10-18-07)
Pursuant to Texas Rule of Appellate Procedure 52.8(c), without hearing oral argument, the petition for writ of
habeas corpus is granted and relator is ordered discharged.
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