law-frivolous-lawsuit claim, finding | sanctions case law | prisoner inmate litigation | vexatious litigants |

Sanctions not warranted

In their last issue, appellants argue that the trial court erred in denying their motion for sanctions.  Below,
appellants filed a motion for sanctions against appellees and county attorney Jon C. Fultz, asserting
multiple grounds, including filing groundless pleadings for improper purposes and in bad faith and making
false and misleading representations to the court.  Appellants requested sanctions pursuant to Rule 13 of
the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure and section 10.001 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code.  
See Tex. R. Civ. P. 13; Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 10.001.
A trial court's ruling on a motion for sanctions is reviewed under an abuse-of- discretion standard.  Cire v.
Cummings, 134 S.W.3d 835, 838 (Tex. 2004).  The test for abuse of discretion is not whether, in the
opinion of the reviewing court, the facts present an appropriate case for the trial court's action, but
whether the court acted without reference to any guiding rules and principles.  Id. at 838-39.  Civil
procedure rule 13 authorizes sanctions against an attorney, a represented party, or both if the evidence
establishes a pleading is either (1) groundless and brought in bad faith, or (2) groundless and brought to
harass.  Tex. R. Civ. P. 13.  Groundless “means no basis in law or fact and not warranted by good faith
argument for the extension, modification, or reversal of existing law."  Id.
Sanctions under chapter 10 of the Civil Practice and Remedies Code are authorized if the evidence
establishes that (1) a pleading or motion was brought for an improper purpose, (2) there were no
grounds for legal arguments advanced, or (3) a factual allegation or denial lacked evidentiary support.  
Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 10.001.  Furthermore, we must presume that the challenged pleadings
were filed in good faith.  Low v. Henry, 221 S.W.3d 609, 614 (Tex. 2007); Thottumkal v. McDougal, 251 S.
W.3d 715, 718 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2008, pet. denied).  The party seeking sanctions bears
the burden of overcoming the presumption of good faith in the filing of pleadings.  Low, 221 S.W.3d at
Mattox v. County Commissioner's Court-Grimes Cty. (Tex.App.- Houston [14th Dist.] Oct. 29, 2009)
mandamus against public official, commissioner's court) (cancellation of a roadway dedication,
interpretation of section 232.008 of the Texas Local Government Code, which governs cancellation of all
or part of a subdivision located outside of any municipality)(both parties' motions for summary judgment
Chief Justice Hedges     
Before Chief Justice Hedges, Justices Brock Yates and Frost   
14-08-00193-CV Gregory R. Mattox and Barbara Wilkerson v. County Commissioners' Court-Grimes
County, Betty Shiflett-Grimes County Judge, John Bertling-County Commissioner Pct 1., and Pam Finke-
County Commissioner Pct 4    
Appeal from 506th Judicial District Court of County
Trial Court Judge:  Albert M McCaig Jr.
Dissenting Opinion by Justice Frost  in Mattox  v. County Commissioners' Court of Grimes County
Appellants sought sanctions based primarily upon their belief that appellees filed pleadings and affidavits
containing  false and misleading statements.  Appellants also argue on appeal that they were entitled to
sanctions against appellees because appellees did not respond to their motion for sanctions.  The motion
filed with the trial court sought sanctions for appellants' belief that the pleadings and affidavits asserted
false and misleading statements.  However, those beliefs were not supported by sufficient evidence.  
Although appellants accompanied their sanctions motion with exhibits, the evidence did not establish that
appellees knowingly filed pleadings with false or misleading statements or knowingly filed false affidavits.  
The sanctions evidence  simply controverts appellees' position in the mandamus proceeding.  Appellees'
motion essentially sought sanctions for their disagreement with the factual and legal assertions made by
appellees, which does not warrant sanctions.  
Therefore, we cannot conclude on the record before us that appellees' claims, pleadings, or evidence
had no basis in law or fact or that the pleadings were not supported by  a good faith argument.  Further,
we cannot conclude that appellees acted in bad faith or for the purpose of harassment or for any
improper purpose in attempting to defend against appellants' petition for writ of mandamus.  Accordingly,
the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying appellants' request for sanctions.  We overrule
appellants' fifth issue.

Richard v. Dretke (Tex.App.- Houston [14th Dist.] Apr. 7, 2009)(Frost)
pro se litigants, IFP prisoner inmate suit dismissal, frivolous finding)
AFFIRMED: Opinion by
Justice Frost   
Before Justices Frost, Brown and Boyce)
14-08-00714-CV  Anthony Joseph Richard v. Douglas Dretke, Et Al.
Appeal from 349th District Court of Houston County