Daniels v. State

In Daniels v. State538 S.W.3d 139 (Tex. App.-El Paso 2017, pet. denied) the appeals court reversed a ruling for several media defendants. The media defendants had filed a motion to dismiss under the Texas Citizens Participation Act (TCPA), TEX. CIV. PRAC. & REM. CODE ANN. § 27.001 et. seq. The motion was filed timely. However, the hearing and dismissal order were not timely.

Facts

The plaintiff sued a number of defendants including the State of New Mexico as well as several local media defendants. The media defendants timely filed a motion to dismiss under the TCPA. The opinion states:

They properly filed their motion to dismiss under the TCPA on January 8, 2013, within the 60 days required by the act. In accordance with the statute effective at that time, the trial court was required to hold a hearing within 30 days. However, the hearing was not held until February 20, 2013, a full 43 days after service of the motion.

The appeals court then held that the hearing has to be held within 30 days unless there is good cause to delay it. They went on to hold that

(T)he trial court arguably ruled by implication and found good cause when the trial court gave Appellant time to respond to the New Mexico Appellees’ jurisdictional issues.

However, even if the court did so, no subsequent hearing on the motion was held. The statute requires a hearing on the Media Appellees’ dismissal motions, and without such a hearing the motions to dismiss cannot be granted.

On the other hand, if the hearing on February 20 was, in fact, the motion hearing, then the dismissal motion was overruled by operation of law when a ruling was not made within 30 days of February 20.

During the hearing, the trial court devoted almost all of its attention to the motions of the non media defendants and the TCPA motions was not addressed.

The TCPA dismissal motions were not raised again until 41 days after the hearing—on April 2— when Media Appellees filed a supplemental motion, noting the 30-day timetable under the statute and stating the hearing on their motion was not held on February 20. The trial court did not hold another hearing on their dismissal motions but nonetheless granted the motions to dismiss on April 18.

Unfortunately for the Media Appellees, these deadlines were not optional.

Conclusion

This was a pro se case where the Appellant filed claims against a multitude of parties, including government entities. The hearing was held 43 days after the motion was filed instead of 30 days but the appeals court held that the judge could have found good cause to delay the hearing by implication. If the hearing was held on the 43rd day, then the media defendants were too late with their appeal. If the hearing on the 43rd day was not a hearing on the motion there could be no order without the hearing. See my previous post on TCPA appeals when there is no hearing.

In any case, The trial court’s April 18 order granting the motions was invalid.

Other cases involving deadlines

See this article for deadlines that the courts have ruled on.