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COURT OF APPEALS
THIRTEENTH DISTRICT OF TEXAS
CORPUS CHRISTI B EDINBURG
SISTER CARMEN DE LLANO, JOSEPHINE JOHNSON,
INDEPENDENT EXECUTRIX OF THE ESTATE OF
MANUEL DE LLANO, BLANCA A. DE LLANO DE AGUILAR,
MARTHA DE LLANO DE OLIVERA, FERNANDO
DE LLANO, JR., AS PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE
OF THE ESTATE OF FERNANDO DE LLANO, AND
JOSEFINA DE LLANO, Appellants,
PABLO SUESS AND FROST NATIONAL BANK,
TRUSTEES OF THE JOHN G. KENEDY, JR.
CHARITABLE TRUST, Appellees.
On appeal from the 206th District Court of Hidalgo County, Texas.
Before Justices Hinojosa, Yañez, and Garza
Memorandum Opinion by Justice Hinojosa
Appellants, Sister Carmen De Llano, Josephine Johnson, independent executrix of the estate of Manuel De Llano, Blanca De Llano De Aguilar, Martha De Llano De Olivera, Fernando De Llano, Jr., as personal representative of the estate of Fernando De Llano, and Josefina De Llano, filed suit against appellees, Pablo Suess and Frost National Bank, Trustees of the John G. Kenedy, Jr. Charitable Trust, for the recovery of real property, asserting various tort claims. A jury returned a verdict in favor of appellees, finding against appellants on all liability theories and in favor of appellees= defenses. In six issues, appellants (1) question the finality of the judgment and the jurisdiction of the trial court, (2) contend the appearance of the Attorney General of the State of Texas violated the Texas and United States Constitutions, (3) contend appellees= appeal to race during closing argument was incurable, (4) contend the trial court erred in failing to disqualify attorney J. A. ATony@ Canales, and (5) contend the jury=s finding on adverse possession requires this Court to render judgment for appellants. We affirm.
As this is a memorandum opinion and because all issues of law presented by this case are well settled and the parties are familiar with the facts, we will not recite the law and the facts here except as necessary to advise the parties of this Court's decision and the basic reasons for it. See Tex. R. App. P. 47.4.
B. Finality of Judgment
In their sixth issue, appellants contend the trial court=s judgment is not final because: (1) it adjudicated the claims of Athe Unknown Heirs of Carmen Morell Kenedy;@ (2) it failed to adjudicate appellees= counterclaim for attorneys fees; and (3) it failed to identify, with sufficient particularity, the real property interests involved.
Appellants assert the judgment improperly adjudicates the claims of the unknown heirs of Carmen Morell Kenedy. However, even though a trial court grants more relief than it ought to grant, the judgment is nevertheless final. See Jacobs v. Satterwhite, 65 S.W.2d 653, 655 (Tex. 2001). An order that expressly disposes of the entire case is not interlocutory merely because the record fails to show an adequate motion or other legal basis for the disposition. Lehmann v. Har‑Con Corp., 39 S.W.3d 191, 206 (Tex. 2001). Language that the plaintiff take nothing by his claims in the case, or that the case is dismissed, shows finality if there are no other claims by other parties. Id. at 205.
Appellants further assert that because appellees requested an award of attorneys fees as a counterclaim, and no language in the judgment specifically states that they take nothing by their counterclaims, the judgment is not final. However, when a judgment, not intrinsically interlocutory in character, is rendered and entered in a case regularly set for a conventional trial on the merits, it will be presumed for appeal purposes that the court intended to, and did, dispose of all parties legally before it and of all issues made by the pleadings between such parties. Moritz v. Preiss, 121 S.W.3d 715, 719 (Tex. 2003). Furthermore, claims raised by pleadings not expressly disposed of by a judgment are denied by implication. Rackley v. Fowlkes, 89 Tex. 613, 36 S.W. 77, 78 (1896).
The judgment specifically says it is a AFinal Judgment,@ acknowledges appellees as counter-plaintiffs, and awards appellees the substantive relief requested in their counterclaims. Appellees admit that they did not produce any evidence in support of their claim for attorneys fees. Accordingly, we conclude that appellees= claim for attorneys fees was implicitly denied.
Finally, appellants argue that the judgment fails to identify with sufficient particularity the real property interests involved. However, because appellants fail to cite to any authority for their contention, this argument is waived. See Tex. R. App. P. 38.1(h). Appellants= sixth issue is overruled.
C. Participation of Attorney General
In their first issue, appellants contend the trial court violated the Texas and United States Constitutions by allowing the Attorney General of the State of Texas to appear before the jury on behalf of appellees. They assert that the attorney general=s participation in this suit constitutes excessive entanglement of the State and religious organizations. We note that appellants did not raise this contention before the trial court.
The attorney general intervened in this matter pursuant to section 123.002 of the property code, which provides:
For and on behalf of the interest of the general public of this state in charitable trusts, the attorney general is a proper party and may intervene in a proceeding involving a charitable trust. The attorney general may join and enter into a compromise, settlement agreement, contract, or judgment relating to a proceeding involving a charitable trust.
Tex. Prop. Code Ann. '123.002 (Vernon 1995).
Immediately before voir dire, when asked if there were any other Ahousekeeping matters@ to address, without challenging the constitutionality of the statutory basis for the attorney general=s intervention, counsel for appellants expressed concern regarding the attorney general=s participation at trial. When asked by the trial court if appellants were making a motion, appellants= counsel responded:
We are asking the Court to either limit her participation or at least set some ground rules, because if she is allowed unfettered access to this litigation, she will be essentially acting in violation of the constitutional restrictions that are set out in the Texas Constitution that prohibit the interference or the assistance of the state to any particular religious group. And we believe that=s improper and illegal.
When asked a second time by the trial court what relief appellants were requesting, counsel responded:
. . . . We want the Court to set some very specific ground rules that will limit the presentation to the jury of any inference or possibility in their minds that they will perceive the State as lending its weight and prestige to a secular religious organization, which we believe is improper under the constitution. We need some rules, some relief that will protect the jury from seeing the attorney general or hearing the attorney general arguing or representing religious entities.
The trial court then set forth the requested parameters and asked appellants if there was anything else needed from the plaintiff=s perspective. Counsel for appellants stated, AThat=s it, your Honor.@
The record reflects that appellants did not challenge the constitutionality of section 123.002 of the property code. Appellants only asked the trial court to set parameters for the attorney general=s participation at trial, and the trial court granted appellants= request. The trial court then inquired whether there was anything else, and appellants stated they had no further requests.
Accordingly, we conclude that a constitutional challenge was not properly raised in the trial court, and a constitutional challenge not raised properly in the trial court is waived on appeal. See Wood v. Wood, 320 S.W.2d 807, 813 (Tex. 1959); Walker v. Employees Ret. Sys., 753 S.W.2d 796, 798 (Tex. App.BAustin 1988, writ denied). Appellants= first issue is overruled.
D. Improper Jury Argument
In their second issue, appellants contend that appellees= appeal to race and national origin during closing argument constituted improper jury argument that was incurable. Specifically, appellants challenge the reference to Carmen Morell Kenedy as a Agood old Mexican gal@ and Alittle Mexicanita@ and a reference to Ahalf-Mexicans.@
Incurable reversible error occurs when any attorney suggests, either openly or with subtlety and finesse, that a jury feel solidarity with or animus toward a litigant or a witness because of race or ethnicity. Tex. Employers Ins. Ass=n v. Guerrero, 800 S.W.2d 859, 866 (Tex. App.BSan Antonio 1990, writ denied); see Mission Res., Inc. v. Garza Energry Trust, 2005 Tex. App. LEXIS 3443, at *45-46 (Tex. App.BCorpus Christi May 5, 2005, no pet. h.) (Acourtroom strategies appealing to racial or ethnic biases are highly improper and unfairly prejudicial@). To prove incurable jury argument, the complaining party must show (1) improper argument was made; (2) that was not invited or provoked; (3) that was properly preserved at trial, such as by objection, motion to instruct or motion for mistrial; (4) error was not curable by instruction, prompt withdrawal of statement, or reprimand by judge; and (5) argument, by nature, degree, and extent, constituted reversible error based on examination of the entire record to determine the argument's probable effect on a material finding. See Standard Fire Ins. Co. v. Reese, 584 S.W.2d 835, 839‑40 (Tex. 1979); Tex. Employers Ins. Ass'n v. Puckett, 822 S.W.2d 133, 135 (Tex. App.BHouston [1st Dist.] 1991, writ denied).
Appellees argue that none of the statements made during closing argument constitute incurable jury argument and, moreover, any statements made by appellees were provoked by appellants= own appeal to racial prejudice that began during voir dire and continued throughout the trial. We agree.
During voir dire, appellants questioned jurors about Tejano history and referred to Dr. Andres Tijerina, a Tejano historian, who would testify at trial. During opening argument, appellants referred to Carmen as a poor Mexican girl who had her property stolen. During trial, appellants called Dr. Tijerina, who testified at length about the adverse treatment of people of Mexican descent by people of Anglo heritage and the unfair acquisition of land by Anglos from people of Mexican descent. Appellants also presented testimony regarding the use of the Texas Rangers by Captain King to murder people of Mexican descent, steal their land, and use lawyers to fix the documents. We conclude that such comments and evidence invited or provoked the challenged argument. Appellees= argument was nothing more than an appeal to the jury to disregard ethnicity, an issue first raised by appellants in this case. Appellants second issue is overruled.
E. Disqualification of Defense Counsel
In their third issue, appellants contend the trial court erred by failing to disqualify attorney J. A. ATony@ Canales. Because appellants fail to (1) include any record references, (2) set forth the law regarding the disqualification of attorneys, and (3) provide any substantive analysis regarding this issue, we conclude this issue is waived. See Tex. R. App. P. 38.1(h) (AThe brief must contain a clear and concise argument for the contentions made, with appropriate citations to authorities and to the record.@). Appellants= third issue is overruled.
Despite their success in opposing appellees= plea to the jurisdiction, in their fourth issue, appellants request A[o]ut of an abundance of caution and to finally settle the parties= jurisdictional dispute . . . a ruling from this Court stating which court properly may exercise subject matter jurisdiction over this case. . . .@
In a plea to the jurisdiction, appellees argued that the trial court lacked jurisdiction because appellants= claims constituted an impermissible collateral attack on judgments issued by courts of competent jurisdiction. However, we conclude that appellants= petition was not an attack on these judgments. Appellants= petition did not contest the validity of Carmen=s or any other individual=s will, nor did it seek to set aside any orders. Rather, it sought to clarify what interest Carmen held in the capital stock of Kenedy Pasture Company. The admission of Carmen=s will to probate is irrelevant to appellants= right to recovery or to the issues presented by their petition.
Moreover, since appellants= petition did not seek to avoid the effect of the court=s order, the action is not a collateral attack. See Solomon, Lambert, Roth & Assoc. v. Kidd, 904 S.W.2d 896, 900 (Tex. App.BHouston [1st Dist.] 1995, no writ) (collateral attack is one that attempts to avoid effect of judgment in proceeding brought for some other purpose and seeks to show original judgment is void). Appellants= fourth issue is overruled.
G. Adverse Possession
In their fifth issue, appellants contend the jury=s favorable finding on appellees= affirmative defense of adverse possession establishes that appellants had a Apresent possessory interest in real property.@ Therefore, appellants argue, this Court should render judgment for appellants for no less than one-fourth of all property interests and proceeds claimed by appellees. Appellants make this argument even though the jury found unanimously in favor of appellees, answering Ano@ to all liability questions.
An affirmative defense is by its nature "one of confession and avoidance" which seeks to establish an independent reason why the plaintiff should not prevail. Tex. Beef Cattle Co. v. Green, 921 S.W.2d 203, 212 (Tex. 1996). However, establishing an affirmative defense in no way relieves the plaintiff from proving the elements of his claim. If we were to accept appellants= argument that a finding of an element of an affirmative defense avoiding liability implicitly establishes the liability the defense seeks to avoid, we believe it would nullify the function of affirmative defenses. Accordingly, appellants= fifth issue is overruled.
The judgment of the trial court is affirmed.
FEDERICO G. HINOJOSA
Memorandum Opinion delivered and filed this
the 16th day of June, 2005.
 At oral argument, appellants argued, for the first time, that the judgment does not adjudicate the rights of the Attorney General of the State of Texas. This argument was not briefed, and a new issue may not be presented for the first time at oral argument. See Tex. R. App. P. 38.1(e), 39.2; see also Vawter v. Garvey, 786 S.W.2d 263, 264 (Tex. 1990); In the Interest of C.A.K., 155 S.W.3d 554, 562 n.5 (Tex. App.BSan Antonio 2004, pet. filed).
 During closing argument, appellees= counsel, J. A. ATony@ Canales, argued:
This is a classic lawsuit abuse case, let me tell you right now. I am telling you. It is B they are doing nothing else but trying to squeeze money out of us. Why? Because 105 years ago one of their relatives, one of their relatives was an heir? Because they came over from Mexico, all of a sudden, because the politics of South Texas has changed and we now have a majority of Hispanic jurors? Do you know, just because you happen to be of Mexican descent doesn=t mean you are going to rule for somebody just for that. We are Americans; right? You told me B you promised me when we started this case, you are going to call it the way it is. I said in the beginning, this is not a case about a bunch of Rangers coming and killing a bunch of Mexicans and taking their property away. Remember I said that? Is this what this case is about?
U suck tony the VENDIDO, you embarrass your self. Now how did Bryan smith afford you? Celis was charged the same? Momma knows all the secrets but she told many in http://www.blogger.com/post-create.g?blogID=32053574#
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Sunday, February 01, 2009
We share the same short moment of life; We seek nothing but the chance 2 live our lives in purpose & in happiness winning what satisfaction & ....
This is a time of shame and sorrow. It is not a day for politics. I have saved this one opportunity, my only event of today, to speak briefly to you about the mindless menace of violence in America which again stains our land and every one of our lives. It is not the concern of any one race. The victims of the violence are black and white, rich and poor, young and old, famous and unknown. They are, most important of all, human beings whom other human beings loved and needed. No one - no matter where he lives or what he does - can be certain who will suffer from some senseless act of bloodshed. And yet it goes on and on and on in this country of ours. Why?
What has violence ever accomplished? What has it ever created?
A sniper is only a coward, not a hero;
and an uncontrolled, uncontrollable mob is only the voice of madness, not the voice of reason.
Whenever any American's life is taken by another American unnecessarily - whether it is done in the name of the law or in the defiance of the law, by one man or a gang, in cold blood or in passion, in an attack of violence or in response to violence - whenever we tear at the fabric of the life which another man has painfully and clumsily woven for himself and his children, the whole nation is degraded.
"Among free men," said Abraham Lincoln, "there can be no successful appeal from the ballot to the bullet; and those who take such appeal are sure to lose their cause and pay the costs."
Yet we seemingly tolerate a rising level of violence that ignores our common humanity and our claims to civilization alike. We calmly accept newspaper reports of civilian slaughter in far-off lands. We glorify killing on movie and television screens and call it entertainment. We make it easy for men of all shades of sanity to acquire whatever weapons and ammunition they desire. Too often we honor swagger and bluster and wielders of force; too often we excuse those who are willing to build their own lives on the shattered dreams of others. Some Americans who preach non-violence abroad fail to practice it here at home. Some who accuse others of inciting riots have by their own conduct invited them. Some look for scapegoats, others look for conspiracies, but this much is clear: violence breeds violence, repression brings retaliation, and only a cleansing of our whole society can remove this sickness from our soul. For there is another kind of violence, slower but just as deadly destructive as the shot or the bomb in the night. This is the violence of institutions; indifference and inaction and slow decay. This is the violence that afflicts the poor, that poisons relations between men because their skin has different colors. This is the slow destruction of a child by hunger, and schools without books and homes without heat in the winter. This is the breaking of a man's spirit by denying him the chance to stand as a father and as a man among other men. And this too afflicts us all. I have not come here to propose a set of specific remedies nor is there a single set. For a broad and adequate outline we know what must be done. When you teach a man to hate and fear his brother, when you teach that he is a lesser man because of his color or his beliefs or the policies he pursues, when you teach that those who differ from you threaten your freedom or your job or your family, then you also learn to confront others not as fellow citizens but as enemies, to be met not with cooperation but with conquest; to be subjugated and mastered. We learn, at the last, to look at our brothers as aliens, men with whom we share a city, but not a community; men bound to us in common dwelling, but not in common effort. We learn to share only a common fear, only a common desire to retreat from each other, only a common impulse to meet disagreement with force. For all this, there are no final answers. Yet we know what we must do. It is to achieve true justice among our fellow citizens. The question is not what programs we should seek to enact. The question is whether we can find in our own midst and in our own hearts that leadership of humane purpose that will recognize the terrible truths of our existence. We must admit the vanity of our false distinctions among men and learn to find our own advancement in the search for the advancement of others. We must admit in ourselves that our own children's future cannot be built on the misfortunes of others. We must recognize that this short life can neither be ennobled or enriched by hatred or revenge. Our lives on this planet are too short and the work to be done too great to let this spirit flourish any longer in our land. Of course we cannot vanquish it with a program, nor with a resolution. But we can perhaps remember, if only for a time, that those who live with us are our brothers, that they share with us the same short moment of life; that they seek, as do we, nothing but the chance to live out their lives in purpose and in happiness, winning what satisfaction and fulfillment they can. Surely, this bond of common faith, this bond of common goal, can begin to teach us something. Surely, we can learn, at least, to look at those around us as fellow men, and surely we can begin to work a little harder to bind up the wounds among us and to become in our own hearts brothers and countrymen once again.