Sunday, June 10, 2007

Superseded Judgment May Not Be Enforced While Appeal Is Pending - Writ of Prohibition Granted

Houston Appeals Court Conditionally Grants Rare Writ to Enjoin Trial Court from Exercising Contempt Powers

In re Woody K. Lesikar (Tex.App.- Houston [14th Dist.] Jun. 7, 2007)(per curiam)(writ of prohibition, supersedeas bond, enforcement by contempt, appellate jurisdiction)

In this dispute over a family trust, the party appealing from the final judgment had filed a supersedeas bond to prevent enforcement of the judgment. The court of appeals finds that the trial court was without jurisdiction to hold the judgment debtor in contempt for failure to distribute funds during the pendency of the appeal.

In a memorandum opinion, the reviewing court finds that the trial court's attempt to exercise contempt jurisdiction interferes with its jurisdiction over the subject matter of the appeal, and that a writ of prohibition is warranted. Had the judgment not been superseded, however, the trial court would have had the power to enforce it.

The parties also disputed the sufficiency of the supersedeas bond, and whether it covered the entire judgment at issue, because additional funds became available for distribution only after the death of the wife of the person whose will created the trust, and her death occurred after the final judgment was entered and the supersedeas bond had been posted. The Court holds that the appropriate remedy under these circumstances is a motion to increase the amount of the supersedeas, a matter over which the trial court does retain jurisdiction.

Like a mandamus proceeding, a petition for a writ of prohibition is an original proceeding brought in the court of appeals to control the actions of a trial court judge who fails to comply with the law. While a petition for mandamus seeks an order directing the trial court to take some specified action, a writ of prohibition, as the term implies, seeks to enjoin the judge of the inferior court from performing an unauthorized or illegal act. The actual writ, which is comparable to an injunction against the trial court judge, does not issue unless the judge fails to comply.

Disposition: Writ of Prohibition Conditionally Granted, Mandamus Denied (granted in part and denied in part)
Opinion by: Per Curiam
Appellate cause no.: 14-06-01041-CV
Style: In re: Woody K. Lesikar as trustee of the Woodrow V. Lesikar Family Trust
Trial court: 149th District Court of Brazoria County (Judge Robert May)

Legal lingo: writ of prohibition, mandamus, enforcement of judgment, sufficiency of supersedeas bond, contempt jurisdiction, appellate jurisdiction

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