Weekly Case Summaries: December 15, 2017

Texas Courts of Appeals

State v. Atkinson

No. 04-17-00184-CR         12/07/17

Issue:

Is a judge’s handwritten edit to the caption of a motion to dismiss sufficient to change it from a motion to dismiss with leave to refile to a motion to dismiss with prejudice?

Holding:

No. Although the trial judge added the words “/w prejudice” to the caption of the motion, the text of the dismissal order unambiguously states “the case is hereby dismissed with leave to refile.” An unambiguous order must be given effect based on the literal language used; matters extrinsic to the order may not be considered. Furthermore, the alteration to the caption is not a part of the motion filed by the State because it was done by the trial judge, not State’s counsel. It is not the place of the trial judge to modify motions. Finally, the trial court’s docket sheet, which indicates a dismissal with prejudice, does not control over the text of a written order. Read opinion.

Commentary:

A trial court does not have the authority—generally—to dismiss a case “with prejudice.” Instead of deciding the case on that basis, however, the court of appeals construes the motion and its accompanying order as requesting and obtaining a dismissal of the case “without prejudice” to refile. There is some good language in this opinion if a similar fact situation arises in one of your cases.

Announcements:

Spots are still available for TDCAA’s January 2018 Prosecutor Trial Skills Course. If you are a new or returning Texas prosecutor, or just looking for a refresher, this course is for you. Come spend an engaging week in San Antonio learning the ropes with prosecutors from all over this great state. The course will be held this coming January from the 7th to the 12th. Registration and more detailed event information can be found here.

TDCAA is pleased to offer these unique case summaries from the U.S. Supreme Court, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the Texas Supreme Court, the Texas Courts of Appeals and the Texas Attorney General. In addition to the basic summaries, each case will have a link to the full text opinion and will offer exclusive prosecutor commentary explaining how the case may impact you as a prosecutor. The case summaries are for the benefit of prosecutors, their staff members, and members of the law enforcement community. These summaries are NOT a source of legal advice for citizens. The commentaries expressed in these case summaries are not official statements by TDCAA and do not represent the opinions of TDCAA, its staff, or any member of the association. Please email comments, problems, or questions to [email protected].