Garcia-Marroquin v. Nueces Cty. Bail Bond, GARCIA-MARROQUIN

CourtCourt of Appeals of Texas
Citation1 S.W.3d 366
Docket NumberNo. 13-97-881-CV,GARCIA-MARROQUIN,13-97-881-CV
Parties(Tex.App.-Corpus Christi 1999) Delma J., d/b/a Luckies Bonding Service, Appellant v. NUECES COUNTY BAIL BOND, Appellee.
Decision Date31 August 1999

Before: Justices DORSEY, CHAVEZ, and RODRIGUEZ.

OPINION

Opinion by Justice DORSEY.

The central issue in this appeal concerns the district court's jurisdiction over the Nueces County Bail Bond Board ("the Board"). Delma J. Garcia-Marroquin, a licensed bondsman doing business under the name "Luckie's Bonding Service," filed suit against the Board complaining that the Board's accounting procedures were inaccurate, preventing the Board from fairly enforcing a statutory requirement that bondsmen maintain a ten-to-one ratio of bonds outstanding to collateral property.1 When she filed her original complaint, the Board had recently sent Garcia-Marroquin a letter requiring her to provide proof that she was in compliance with the 10:1 ration. She sought injunction, damages and declaratory relief. The trial court issued a temporary injunction prohibiting the Board from "directly or indirectly" closing Garcia-Marroquin's bonding company or any other bonding company in Nueces County until providing the court with an accurate accounting.

Less than five days after that injunction was signed, the Board sent another notice of suspension to Garcia-Marroquin, the time citing her failure to provide the Board with proof that she maintained title policy insurance on her collateral property. Garcia-Marroquin filed another petition seeking damages, declaratory and injunction relief, complaining that the Board's imposition of the title policy insurance requirement was beyond the scope of its authority. She also complained that the Board's action violated the previously entered injunction, and included a cause of action for a de novo appeal of the Board's decision under the Bail Bond Act. After hearing, the court entered another injunction that specifically prohibited the Board from suspending Garcia-Marroquin's bail bonding license until final resolution of this case.

After entry of the two injunctions, the suit lay dormant for seven months. Then, Garcia-Marroquin sought further court intervention because her bonding license was due to expire and she did not believe the injunctions in place would prohibit the Board from refusing to renew her license.2 In fact, she had received a letter from the Board near the time her license was up for renewal that required her to provide proof of title policy insurance as a condition of renewal. Again, Garcia-Marroquin sought injunction. Her petition requesting this relief set off the last flurry of pleadings ultimately resulting in the trial court dissolving the injunctions and dismissing the suit.

The Board filed a plea to the jurisdiction and a motion to clarify which injunctions were in force and what their effect was. After conducting a hearing, the trial court dissolved both injunctions. The Board then filed a motion for ruling on the question of jurisdiction. Two weeks after dissolving the injunctions, the court heard this motion. The Board argued that the district court had no jurisdiction over this suit because Garcia-Marroquin had failed to exhaust her administrative remedies. Holding that a "final ruling" from the Board was a jurisdictional prerequisite, the court dismissed the entire suit.

ISSUES PRESENTED

Garcia-Marroquin presents four issued on appeal. First, she contends that the trial court erred in dissolving the injunctions. Second, she contends that the trial court erred by dismissing her suit for lack of jurisdiction. Third, she contends that the trial court erred in dismissing her suit without addressing all issues in her pleadings. Finally, she contends that the trial court improperly dismissed her action with prejudice. Because our resolution of the jurisdictional issue renders the others moot, we only address the issues concerning lack of jurisdiction and dissolution of the injunctions.

CAUSE OF ACTION AT ISSUE

In order to assess whether the district court had subject matter jurisdiction, we determine what causes of action were pending from examining Garcia-Marroquin's pleadings. She filed three petitions under various titles in this suit.3 She added new causes of action in all petitions, but did not replead causes of action from her prior petitions. When pleadings are improperly titled, we look to the substance of the plea for relief to determine the nature of the pleading, not merely at the form of title given to it. See TEX.R.CIV.P. 71; State Bar v. Heard, 663 S.W.2d 829, 833 (Tex.1980). We find that Garcia-Marroquin intended all the petitions to be supplements rather than amendments and treat them accordingly. Combining the three petitions, we find that Garcia-Marroquin adequately pled the following causes of action:

(1) Cause of action for damages based on the Board's alleged faulty accounting procedures;

(2) Cause of action for damages based on the Board's suspension of her license for failure to provide proof of title policy insurance;

(3) Cause of action for injunctive relief based on the Board's alleged faulty accounting procedures;

(4) Cause of action for injunctive relief based on the Board's suspension of her license due to her failure to provide proof of title policy insurance - seeking to enjoin the Board both from suspending her license on that basis and from failing to renew her license on that basis;

(5) Cause of action for declaratory judgment regarding the Board's alleged faulty accounting procedures.

(6) Cause of action for declaratory judgment regarding the Board's authority to require proof of title policy insurance; and

(7) Cause of action for de novo appeal of the Board's suspension of her license based on her failure to provide proof of title policy insurance.

STATUTORY STRUCTURE AND POWERS OF COUNTY BAIL BOND BOARDS

We also must look to the stature creating and empowering the bail bond board to determine whether the district court has jurisdiction to grant injunctive, monetary or declaratory relief against the Board. The bail bond board is a county entity created by the same statute it implements. See TEX.CIV.STAT.ANN. art, 2372 p-3, § 5(a) (Vernon Supp.1999). The statute is designed to regulate the business of executing bail bonds and requires a person to obtain a license in order to execute bail bonds. See id. at §§ 1-2. The statute sets out in detail the procedure for licensing, eligibility requirements, conditions upon licenses, provisions for termination, revocation, renewal and suspension of licenses, etc. See generally TEX.CIV.STAT.ANN. art. 2372 p-3 et seq. A county board is created for each county with a population over 110,000. See id. at § 5(a).

The Board is vested with the power to administer and enforce the Bail Bond Act, to supervise and regulate all phases of the bonding business and to create rules necessary to implement the Act. See id. at § 5(f)(1). While granted the general authority to make and enforce rules it deems necessary to implement the Bail Bond Act, the county bail bond boards cannot create additional requirements for obtaining licenses to write bail bonds. Compare id. at § 5(f) (stating that besides the powers and duties enumerated in the statute, the board has the powers and duties to exercise powers incidental or necessary to the administration of the Act, to supervise and regulate all phases of the bonding business and enforce the Act within the county, and to prescribe and post any rules necessary to implement the Act) with Texas Fire & Cas. Co. v. Harris Co. Bail Bond Bd., 684 S.W.2d 177, 178 (Tex.App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 1984, writ ref'd n.r.e.) (holding a local rule of the Harris Co. Bail Bond Board requiring a $100,000.00 security deposit invalid because it imposed additional burdens on bail bond applications when the statutory minimum deposit is $5,000.00); Bexar Co. Bail Bond Bd. v. Deckard, 604 S.W.2d 214, 216 (TEX.CIV.APP.-San Antonio 1980, no writ) (same).

The Act gives expiration and renewal requirements for licenses, and provides for their refusal, suspension and revocation. See id. at § 10. The board has the duty to conduct hearings and investigations and make determinations regarding the issuance, refusal, suspension, or revocation of licenses to bondsmen. Id. at § 5(f)(2). The Act details the procedure for suspension and revocation of licenses. See TEX.CIV.STAT.ANN. Art 2372 p-3, § 6(g) (Vernon Supp.1999). The board must provide the bondsman with notice of a hearing to suspend or revoke his license specifying what portion(s) of the Act the bondsman is charged with violating. See id. at § 10(a)(b). The hearing, which must be recorded, must afford the bondsman an opportunity to be heard and to present and confront witnesses. See id. at § 10(c)-(e). However, when a bondsman fails to maintain the proper ratio of security deposit to bonds outstanding, the Board is required to suspend the bondsman's license immediately, without a hearing. See id. at § 10(f).

The Act also provides for court review of a board's order revoking, suspending or refusing to issue a license. See id. at § 11. The appeal must be taken within thirty days after written notice of the suspension, revocation or refusal by filing a petition in a district court in the county. See id. The appeal is de novo, like proceedings appealed from justice court to county court. See id. If no appeal is taken, the board's action becomes final. Further, the Act requires that "the decision of the board shall have full force and effect pending the determination of the appeal." Id.

We now turn to the question of whether the trial court had jurisdiction over these claims.

STANDARDS GOVERNING SUBJECT MATTER JURISDICTION

Subject matter jurisdiction concerns the kinds of controversies a court has the...

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