State v. Naylor (In re State)

Citation466 S.W.3d 783
Decision Date19 June 2015
Docket NumberNo. 11–0114, No. 11–0222,11–0114
PartiesState of Texas, Petitioner, v. Angelique Naylor and Sabina Daly, Respondents In re State of Texas, Relator
CourtSupreme Court of Texas

466 S.W.3d 783

State of Texas, Petitioner
Angelique Naylor and Sabina Daly, Respondents
In re State of Texas, Relator

No. 11–0114
No. 11–0222

Supreme Court of Texas.

Argued November 5, 2013

Daniel H. Branch, Dallas, for Amicus Curiae Daniel H. Branch.

Kelly J. Shackelford, Liberty Institute, Plano, for Amicus Curiae Warren Chisum and the Honorable Todd Staples.

Cleve W. Doty, Baker Botts LLP, Daniel T. Hodge, First Asst. Attorney General, David C. Mattax, Director of Defense Litigation, Office of the Attorney General, Greg W. Abbott, Attorney General of Texas, James D. Blacklock, Jonathan F. Mitchell, Solicitor General, Office of the Attorney General, Michael P. Murphy, Asst. Solicitor General, William J. “Bill” Cobb III, Office of the Attorney General, Austin, for Petitioner State of Texas.

Robert B. Luther, Law Offices of Robert B. Luther, P.C., Austin, for Respondent Sabina Daly.

James J. Scheske, James J. Scheske, PLLC, Austin, Jason P. Steed, Bell Nunnally & Martin LLP, Dallas, Jennifer Renee Cochran, Jennifer R. Cochran PC, Austin, for Respondent Angelique S. Naylor.


Justice Brown delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Chief Justice Hecht, Justice Green, Justice Johnson, and Justice Boyd joined.

This case arises from the State's attempt to intervene in a civil action after the trial court had already rendered final judgment. We must determine whether the court of appeals erred in holding the State lacks standing to appeal the judgment and, if not, whether the State is entitled to mandamus relief. We answer both questions in the negative, affirming the decision of the court of appeals and denying the State's petition for writ of mandamus.


Texas residents Angelique Naylor and Sabina Daly were married in Massachusetts in 2004. A few years later, Naylor filed for divorce in Travis County. Because the two women were raising a child and operating a business together, Naylor hoped to obtain a judgment addressing their respective rights, some of which they had already settled in a suit affecting the parent-child relationship (“SAPCR”).

The State of Massachusetts indisputably recognizes this same-sex marriage. Texas, however, adheres to the traditional definition of marriage and does not recognize same-sex unions. Our constitution unambiguously provides that “[m]arriage in this state shall consist only of the union of one man and one woman.” Tex. Const. art. I, § 32 (a). And while other states allow same-sex unions, Texas is not “required to give effect to any public act, record, or judicial proceeding of any other State ... that is treated as a [same-sex] marriage under the laws” of that state. 28 U.S.C. § 1738C ; see also Tex. Fam. Code § 6.204(c)(1) (indicating Texas courts may not “give effect” to such arrangements).

Strategically emphasizing this aspect of Texas law, Daly originally contested the divorce, contending that section 6.204 of the Family Code deprives Texas courts of jurisdiction to implicitly recognize same-sex marriage by issuing divorce decrees to same-sex couples. While Daly recognized

466 S.W.3d 787

the district court's jurisdiction over the controversy, see id. § 155.001(a), she argued the court could only declare the marriage void. She also contested the need to modify the recently settled SAPCR.

Although the trial court acknowledged Daly's concerns and the complex issues Naylor's petition raised, it did not resolve those issues, as the two women settled their differences over the course of a two-day hearing. At the end of the second day, the trial court orally granted an ostensible divorce “pursuant to the agreement [the parties had] recited into the record.” Recognizing that divorce may not be available to same-sex couples in Texas, this record stipulated that the judgment “is intended to be a substitute for ... a valid and subsisting divorce,” and “is intended to dispose of all economic issues and liabilities as between the parties whether they [are] divorced or not.”

Several lawyers from the Texas Attorney General's Office were present during the hearing and the announcement of the trial court's decision. The following day, the State filed a petition in intervention seeking “to oppose the Original Petition for Divorce and to defend the constitutionality of Texas and federal laws that limit divorce actions to persons of the opposite sex who are married to one another.” The State also raised a plea to the jurisdiction urging the court to dismiss Naylor's petition. The State explained that the court lacked jurisdiction to render a divorce, but could declare the marriage void under Chapter 6 of the Family Code and pursuant to Daly's response to the divorce petition. The State had not previously attempted to intervene or otherwise make its interests known to the court.

Daly objected to this attempted intervention, alleging the State has no justiciable interest in the case and that it filed its petition late. Naylor echoed Daly's arguments in a motion to strike the intervention. Naylor also objected to the State's jurisdictional plea, arguing that Texas law is unconstitutional to the extent it withholds the remedy of divorce. The trial court held a hearing on the contested intervention but ultimately decided not to entertain the State's petition, emphasizing that the attempted intervention had come too late. The judge therefore did not rule on the motion to strike or the plea to the jurisdiction, but instead signed the judgment and encouraged the State to seek appellate review.

The court of appeals, however, dismissed the State's appeal for want of jurisdiction, holding the intervention untimely and finding no basis for appellate standing. See generally State v. Naylor, 330 S.W.3d 434 (Tex.App.–Austin 2011). The State then sought this Court's review, asking us to allow the intervention and to vacate the divorce. In the alternative, the State seeks a writ of mandamus ordering the district court to vacate its decree and dismiss the petition for want of jurisdiction.


We agree with the court of appeals that the State lacks standing to appeal the trial court's decree. Standing is a component of subject-matter jurisdiction, Tex. Ass'n of Bus. v. Tex. Air Control Bd ., 852 S.W.2d 440, 444 (Tex.1993), and appellate standing is typically afforded “only to parties of record,” Gunn v. Cavanaugh, 391 S.W.2d 723, 724–725 (Tex.1965). Consequently, an appeal filed by an improper party must be dismissed. Id . We always have jurisdiction to resolve questions of standing and jurisdiction, and we do so via de novo review. Villafani v. Trejo, 251 S.W.3d 466, 467 (Tex.2008) ; Tex. Dep't of Transp. v. City of Sunset Valley, 146 S.W.3d 637, 646 (Tex.2004).

466 S.W.3d 788

Over the course of this litigation, the State has raised three arguments regarding its right to appeal the disputed divorce decree. Before the trial court, the State insisted it had timely intervened and so is a party to the case. At the court of appeals, the State alleged standing both as a timely intervenor and under the virtual-representation doctrine. See Motor Vehicle Bd. of Tex. Dep't of Transp. v. El Paso Indep. Auto. Dealers Ass'n, Inc ., 1 S.W.3d 108, 110 (Tex.1999) (describing the doctrine). Now the State contends that various equitable considerations also provide a basis for appellate standing. We address each argument in turn.


This Court has consistently recognized the State's right to defend Texas law from constitutional challenge.1 However, as the court of appeals explained, the State did not timely intervene in this dispute and therefore is not a party of record. Our intervention doctrine is expansive but not without limits. Under Texas law, a third party “is not required to secure the court's permission to intervene.” Guar. Fed. Sav. Bank v. Horseshoe Operating Co., 793 S.W.2d 652, 657 (Tex.1990) (citations omitted). “Any party may intervene by filing a pleading, subject to being stricken [ ] by the court for sufficient cause on the motion of any party.” Tex. R. Civ. P. 60. Yet while the rules require no judicial permission and impose no intervention deadline, our common law dictates that a party may not intervene post-judgment unless the trial court first sets aside the judgment. See First Alief Bank v. White, 682 S.W.2d 251, 252 (Tex.1984) (“[A] plea in intervention comes too late if filed after judgment and may not be considered unless and until the judgment has been set aside.” (citations omitted)).

In this case the trial court rendered final judgment when it orally announced the divorce. A court's judgment is its announcement of the resolution of the issues in a lawsuit and is rendered “when the trial court officially announces its decision in open court or by written memorandum filed with the clerk.”S & A Rest. Corp. v. Leal, 892 S.W.2d 855, 857 (Tex.1995) (citing Comet Aluminum Co. v. Dibrell, 450 S.W.2d 56, 58 (Tex.1970) ) (other citations omitted). A trial court renders judgment orally when it announces rendition as a present act and not as an “intention to render judgment in the future.” Id. at 858 (quoting Reese v. Piperi, 534 S.W.2d 329, 330 (Tex.1976) ). Its judgment is final as of that date, even if the...

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