TRIAL JUDGE FOUND TO HAVE ABUSED DISCRETION IN IGNORING PARTICULARITY REQUIREMENT FOR SANCTIONS ORDER UNDER TEX. R. CIV. P. 13.
When a trial court sanctions a party or attorney under Rule 13, the order must specify the offending conduct that the judge found worthy of sanctions. If the order fails to do so, it is susceptible to being thrown out on appeal upon proper challenge. That's what happened in this protracted Fort Bend County family law case involving temporary orders and contempt motion. Reversing the order for monetary sanctions in the amount of $750 imposed on one of the spouse's attorneys in favor of the other, the Court of Appeals finds that the trial court abused its discretion in entering the sanction order without including a written rationale.
FROM THE OPINION IN FORTE V. FORTE (TEX.APP.-HOUSTON 2009)
Whether to impose Rule 13 sanctions is within the trial court's sound discretion. Mattly v. Spiegel, Inc., 19 S.W.3d 890, 895 (Tex. App.- Houston [14th Dist.] 2000, no pet.), overruling on other grounds recognized by In re J.R., 123 S.W.3d 669, 672 n.6 (Tex. App.- Houston [14th Dist.] 2003, no pet.). We will not set aside a Rule 13 sanctions order unless an abuse of discretion is shown. Id. However, while a decision to impose Rule 13 sanctions is within the discretion of a trial court, Rule 13 imposes a mandatory duty on the part of the trial court to point out with particularity the acts or omissions on which the sanctions are based. Id.
A primary purpose of the particularity requirement is to justify the imposition of sanctions and to show that the trial court properly weighed the sanctions request and imposed sanctions in an appropriate manner when justified by the circumstances. Id. at 896.
The sanctions order at issue here does not contain any facts justifying the imposition of sanctions against Mutope-Johnson. Therefore, the sanctions order does not comply with Rule 13 and constitutes an abuse of discretion that renders the order unenforceable and requires that it be reversed. Id. We sustain appellant's single issue on appeal.
Accordingly, we reverse the trial court's sanctions order and remand for further proceedings in accordance with this opinion.
Forte v. Forte (Tex.App.- Houston [14TH Dist.] Aug. 18, 2009)(Anderson)
Disposition on Appeal: REVERSED AND REMANDED
Opinion author: Justice John Anderson
Panel members: Before Justices Anderson, Guzman and Boyce
Appellate cause number: 14-08-00179-CV
Full case style: Barbara Jean Forte v. Joseph Wesley Forte
Court below: 328th District Court of Fort Bend County
RELATED TERMS AND CONCEPTS: Sanctions inherent authority, contempt of court