Eichelberger v. Eichelberger

Citation582 S.W.2d 395
Decision Date23 May 1979
Docket NumberNo. B-7239,B-7239
PartiesWilliam John EICHELBERGER, Petitioner, v. Helen Beatrice EICHELBERGER, Respondent.
CourtSupreme Court of Texas

Segrest, Mills, Cameron & Riley, Philip R. Segrest, Waco, for petitioner.

Bedford D. Edwards and Erich W. Schwartze, III, Waco, for respondent.

SPEARS, Justice.

This is a divorce case. The sole question presented is whether the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution preempts a division by the state court of Texas of a spouse's entitlement to benefits under the federal Railroad Retirement Act of 1974. 45 U.S.C.A. § 231 et seq. The trial court awarded the wife a portion of the husband's expected benefits, both vested and contingent, as a part of the division of their community property, and the Court of Civil Appeals affirmed. 557 S.W.2d 587. This court heretofore refused to grant Petitioner's application for writ of error for "want of jurisdiction," but granted the application upon motion for rehearing. We now reverse the judgment of the Court of Civil Appeals, render judgment that the wife is not entitled to a part of the husband's future railroad retirement benefits and affirm the remainder of the trial court's judgment.


The threshold question that confronts this court is whether or not the conflict between the decision of the Court of Civil Appeals in this case and the recent decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in the case of Hisquierdo v. Hisquierdo, --- U.S. ----, 99 S.Ct. 802, 59 L.Ed.2d 1 (1979), confers jurisdiction upon this court to correct the error of the Court of Civil Appeals.

Article VI, Clause 2, of the Constitution of the United States, known as the Supremacy Clause, provides:

"This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding."

Article I, Section 1, of the Constitution of Texas, expressly acknowledges that the State of Texas is subject to the Constitution of the United States. This court must recognize and follow the supreme law of the land. Emmons v. Pacific Indemnity Co., 146 Tex. 496, 208 S.W.2d 884 (1948); Gutierrez v. El Paso & N. E. R. Co., 102 Tex. 378, 117 S.W. 426 (1909); McKee v. Brooks, 64 Tex. 255 (1885). In Emmons we said that this court was controlled in the construction of federal laws by the decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States.

We hold that under Article V, Sections 1 and 3, of the Constitution of Texas, the Supreme Court of Texas possesses the power, and thus the duty, to correct a decision of a Court of Civil Appeals that conflicts with the "supreme law of the land" as established by the Congress and Supreme Court of the United States.

The Supreme Court of Texas is vested with both original and appellate jurisdiction. Our express grant of appellate jurisdiction is contained in Tex.Const. Article V, Section 3, which provides in part:

"Sec. 3. The Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction only except as herein specified, which shall be co-extensive with the limits of the State. Its appellate jurisdiction Shall extend to questions of law arising in cases of which the Courts of Civil Appeals have appellate jurisdiction under such restrictions and regulations as the Legislature may prescribe. Until otherwise provided by law the appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court Shall extend to questions of law arising in the cases in the Courts of Civil Appeals in which the Judges of any Court of Civil Appeals may disagree, or where the several Courts of Civil Appeals may hold differently on the same question of law or where a statute of the State is held void. . . . " (Emphasis supplied.)

Pursuant to this constitutional provision, we have statutory jurisdictional authority in Tex.Rev.Civ.Stat.Ann. Art. 1728 (Vernon 1962). In this case we can only look to sections 1 and 2 since divorce cases are otherwise made final in the Court of Civil Appeals. Tex.Rev.Civ.Stat.Ann. Art. 1821(3) (Vernon 1964). There is no dissent which would give us jurisdiction under section 1. Section 2 states that we have appellate jurisdiction "extending to all questions of law arising in the following cases when same have been brought to the Courts of Civil Appeals from appealable judgment of trial courts: . . . 2. Those in which one of the Courts of Civil Appeals holds differently from a prior decision of another Court of Civil Appeals, or of the Supreme Court upon a question of law material to a decision of the case." No mention is made of a conflict upon a question of law between a Court of Civil Appeals and the Supreme Court of the United States.

Since we are now faced with a case in which no express grant of jurisdiction exists, we must look to the nature of the whole judicial power granted to the courts of this state by Tex.Const. Art. V, Sec. 1, to ascertain jurisdiction. That constitutional provision specifically vests the "judicial power of this state" in one Supreme Court, in one Court of Criminal Appeals, in Courts of Civil Appeals, in District Courts, in County The judicial power is divided among these various named courts by means of express grants of "jurisdiction" contained in the constitution and statutes. The "jurisdiction" of a particular court is that portion of the judicial power which it has been expressly authorized to exercise by the constitution or statutes. Morrow v. Corbin, 122 Tex. 553, 62 S.W.2d 641 (1933).

Courts, in Commissioners Courts, in Courts of Justices of the Peace, and in such other courts as may be provided by law.

In addition to the express grants of judicial power to each court, there are other powers which courts may exercise though not expressly authorized or described by constitution or statute. These powers are woven into the fabric of the constitution by virtue of their origin in the common law and the mandate of Tex.Const. Art. II, Sec. 1, of the separation of powers between three co-equal branches. They are categorized as "implied" and "inherent" powers, though some courts have also used the terms incidental, correlative and inferred.

Both implied and inherent powers exist in this state, each with separate and independent meaning. The courts of this state have long recognized these powers. Their use has continued unchallenged through constitutional revision, express legislative confirmation, as well as the sometimes overbroad statements of our own courts. These statements have resulted from confusion and overlap, and from a failure or refusal to recognize the distinction between implied and inherent powers. See State v. Pounds, 525 S.W.2d 547 (Tex.Civ.App. Amarillo 1975, writ ref'd n. r. e.); Commissioners Court of Lubbock County v. Martin, 471 S.W.2d 100, 109 (Tex.Civ.App. Amarillo 1971, writ ref'd n. r. e.); See also State v. Cannon, 206 Wis. 374, 240 N.W. 441 (1932). We believe that the distinction between them is important.

The Inherent judicial power of a court is not derived from legislative grant or specific constitutional provision, but from the very fact that the court has been created and charged by the constitution with certain duties and responsibilities. The inherent powers of a court are those which it may call upon to aid in the exercise of its jurisdiction, in the administration of justice, and in the preservation of its independence and integrity. 1 Inherent power The Implied powers of a court do not stand on such an independent basis as those described as inherent. Though not directly or expressly granted by constitutional or legislative enactment, implied powers are those which can and ought to be implied from an express grant of power. These powers were recognized by this court in Ex Parte Hughes, 133 Tex. 505, 129 S.W.2d 270 (1939), where the court reversed a contempt conviction because the district court had no jurisdiction over the case. The defendant Hughes had failed to produce documents under the court's subpoena in a usury suit brought by the State of Texas. We held that the court had no jurisdiction over the case since the usury statute provided a remedy between private individuals only, and such remedy could not be enforced by the state. In so doing, however, we recognized the existence of implied jurisdictional powers by the following language:

of the courts has existed since the days of the Inns of Court in common law English jurisprudence. Nevitt v. Wilson, 116 Tex. 29, 285 S.W. 1079, 1083 (1926); People ex rel. Karlin v. Culkin, 248 N.Y. 465, 162 N.E. 487 (1928). It also springs from the doctrine of separation of powers between the three governmental branches. Tex.Const. Art. II, Sec. 1. This power exists to enable our courts to effectively perform their judicial functions and to protect their dignity, independence and integrity.

"Under our judicial system our courts have such powers and jurisdiction as are defined by our laws constitutional and statutory. Under our system there is no such thing as the inherent power of a court, 'if, by that, be meant a power which a court may exercise without a law authorizing it.' Messner v. Giddings, 65 Tex. 301. Of course Jurisdiction is granted by law when it is either directly conferred or ought to be implied from the jurisdiction directly granted. In other words, our courts have such powers and jurisdiction as are directly provided by law, and, in addition thereto, They have such further powers and jurisdiction as are reasonably proper and necessary, that is, as ought to be inferred, from the powers and jurisdiction directly granted." Id. 129 S.W.2d at 273. (Emphasis supplied.)

See Burttschell v. Sheppard, 123 Tex. 113, 69 S.W.2d 402 (1934).

The language of Hughes was overbroad when it categorically denied the...

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