Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

Mandamus Issued Voiding Texas Court’s Seizure Of Trust Fund without Process

by Matt Clarke

A Texas court of appeals has conditionally granted a prisoner’s petition for a writ of mandamus, voiding a district court’s order garnishing funds from the prisoner’s trust fund to pay court costs in an old case.

Roger L. Keeling, a Texas state prisoner, was convicted in 1992 and released on parole in 1996. In 2005, he was convicted of a new charge and returned to prison. In 2006, he received notice that a bill of costs had been entered against him for the 1992 conviction. The “Supplemental Order and Bill of Costs” was addressed to the trust fund and ordered the seizure of $123.50 from Keeling’s account. The trust fund attached Keeling’s funds and closed his account.

Keeling filed a motion in the district court requesting that it rescind its order. The district court did not respond to the motion or rule on it. Keeling filed a pro se petition for a writ of mandamus with the court of appeals requesting that the order be declared void because the garnishment was made without any process. The court of appeals requested that the district court respond to the petition. It did not do so.

The court of appeals held that a prisoner had a property interest in the funds in his trust fund. A court is authorized by 501.014(e), Texas Government Code, to recover payment for court fees and costs from a prisoner’s trust fund account. However, this cannot be done without first allowing the prisoner due process.

In this case, none of the procedures for garnishment or turnover were followed and Keeling was not given an opportunity to oppose the motion before it was issued or receive reconsideration after it was issued. A similar issue was decided in Abdullah v. State, 211 S.W.3d 938 (Tex.App.-Texarkana 2007), a civil appeal in which the court decided that prisoners must be afforded procedural due process before their trust fund accounts are garnished. Agreeing with the analysis in Abdullah, the court of appeals held that, in this case, the order to remove funds from Keeling’s trust fund account was void because no due process was afforded Keeling. The court of appeals also held that Keeling could raise this issue in a mandamus action seeking to invalidate the order because (1) mandamus relief may be given where a trial court’s order is void and (2) any other relief Keeling may have had available was “so uncertain, tedious, burdensome, slow, inconvenient, inappropriate or ineffective as to be deemed inadequate.”

The court of appeals declared the trial court’s order void and ordered the trial court to return any garnished funds to Keeling’s account, conditionally granting mandamus relief if the trial court failed to comply with the order within 14 days. See: In re Keeling, 227 S.W.3d 391 Tex.App.–Waco,2007.

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login

Related legal case

In re Keeling