There is an interesting guest post on the Texas Appellate Law Blog about a case out of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
In Vasilas v. State, decided May 7th, the CCA held that a person could be criminally prosecuted for a false statement made in a civil filing regardless of how that same conduct would be treated under Rule 13 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure. The Court’s conclusion was that statutes always trump rules and, accordingly, there was no need to consider Rule 13.
I’ve already posted a comment about the case on the Texas Appellate Law Blog’s comment stream. Whatever one might think of the wisdom of its ultimate holding, the CCA’s opinion doesn’t mention or analyze the statute through which the Legislature vested rule-making power in the Supreme Court of Texas, which does set out a framework to analyze when the rules trump conflicting statutes.
3 responses so far ↓
1 020033 // May 9, 2008 at 10:05 am
Agree with your analysis, but have a question as to what Vasilas’s options now are.
Because he can’t mandamus the CCA at SCOTX under Tex. Gov’t Code sec. 22.002(a), and it appears he can’t pursue a direct appeal to SCOTX under TRAP 57.2, is his only option now to file a civil appeal of the CCA’s decision back down at the Dallas CoA?
To my mind, because of the statutory conflict you note over at TALBlog, it seems he would have fairly good grounds to assert the CCA didn’t have jurisdiction to render the judgment it did. That, under Tex. Gov’t Code Ann. sec. 22.001(a)(3) (statutory construction) and (d) (SCOTX’s power to determine its own jurisdiction), only SCOTX has jurisdiction to decide the matter.
Would be endlessly fascinating to see this case play out further.
2 Don Cruse // May 9, 2008 at 11:12 am
I would imagine the most direct route is to file a motion for rehearing with the CCA. There may still be room for the CCA to reach the same holding on different reasoning, although I don’t know how receptive the court would be.
I suspect there’s not a strong basis to challenge the CCA’s jurisdiction here. It seems like that court has to be able to construe a criminal statute. That said, the fact that this case implicates a question of broad significance to civil cases, too, might persuade the CCA to take another look to make sure it’s getting the reasoning right.
As for Valias’s options in the ongoing criminal case … that is well outside of my expertise. I’m very curious to know what others think about the case.
3 D. Todd Smith // May 11, 2008 at 11:05 am
This one cries out for a legislative fix.