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Oral argument was held on November 5, 2013. The Court issued an opinion resolving the case on June 19, 2015. File Closed
Tracking 9 articles about this case.
Justice Brown delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Chief Justice Hecht, Justice Green, Justice Johnson, and Justice Boyd joined. PDF
Justice Willett delivered a dissenting opinion, in which Justice Guzman and Justice Devine joined. PDF
Justice Devine delivered a dissenting opinion. PDF
Justice Boyd delivered a concurring opinion. PDF
|Appellate District:||3rd Court of Appeals|
|Outcome Below:||Dismissed - WOJ|
|COA Docket No.:||03-10-00237-CV|
|Opinion Author:||Honorable Diane M. Henson|
|Trial Court:||126th District Court|
|Trial Judge:||Honorable Scott H. Jenkins|
|2015-07-27||Amicus Curiae Letter Received|
|2015-06-30||Amicus Curiae Letter Received|
|2015-06-19||Court approved judgment sent to attorneys of record||Issued|
|2015-06-19||Opinion issued||Court of Appeals' judgment affirmed|
|2015-06-19||Concurring Opinion issued.||Issued|
|2015-06-19||Dissenting opinion issued.||Issued|
|2015-06-19||Dissenting opinion issued.||Issued|
|2015-05-20||Amicus Curiae Letter Received|
|2015-05-20||Amicus Curiae Letter Received|
|2015-04-22||Amicus Curiae Letter Received|
|2015-04-16||Amicus Curiae Letter Received|
|2015-04-15||Amicus Curiae Letter Received|
|2015-04-08||Amicus Curiae Letter Received|
|This case was awaiting the Court's decision after oral argument between January 5, 2015 and April 8, 2015.|
|2015-01-05||Designation of Lead Counsel|
|This case was awaiting the Court's decision after oral argument between November 5, 2013 and January 5, 2015.|
|2013-09-25||Oral Argument Submission Form from Attorney received|
|2013-09-23||Oral Argument Submission Form from Attorney received|
|2013-08-27||Notice from Counsel of a change in address|
|2013-08-23||Case set for oral argument||Case set for oral argument|
|2013-08-23||Petition for Review disposed||Filing granted|
|2013-08-23||Petition for Review granted|
|2013-08-06||Amicus Curiae Brief received|
|2013-08-06||Supplemental Brief filed (Petitioner)|
|2013-07-29||Supplemental Brief filed (Respondent)|
|2013-07-18||Supplemental Brief filed (Petitioner)|
|2013-07-03||Brief on the Merits Requested|
|This case was pending on merits briefs between March 25, 2013 and July 3, 2013.|
|2013-03-25||Notice from Counsel of a change in address|
|This case was pending on merits briefs between July 26, 2012 and March 25, 2013.|
|2012-07-26||Notice from Counsel of a change in address|
|This case was pending on merits briefs between February 3, 2012 and July 26, 2012.|
|2012-02-03||Phone call from Clerk's Office|
|This case was pending on merits briefs between December 6, 2011 and February 3, 2012.|
|2011-12-06||Amicus Curiae Brief received|
|2011-11-08||Case Record Filed|
|2011-11-01||Reply Brief (Petitioner)|
|2011-10-17||Brief on the Merits (Respondent)|
|2011-10-06||Motion for Extension of Time disposed.||Filing granted|
|2011-10-03||Motion for Extension of Time to File Brief filed|
|2011-09-19||Brief on the Merits (Petitioner)|
|2011-08-22||Case Record Filed|
|2011-08-19||Brief on the Merits Requested|
|2011-08-19||Record Requested in Petition for Review|
|This case was waiting for a decision about briefing or a possible grant between June 27, 2011 and August 19, 2011.|
|2011-06-27||Response to Petition (Respondent)|
|2011-05-26||Supreme Court of Texas Requested Response|
|2011-05-13||Amicus Curiae Brief received|
|2011-04-26||Case forwarded to Court|
|2011-04-25||Notice from attorney regarding vacation dates|
|2011-04-20||Response Waiver filed|
|2011-04-18||Response Waiver filed|
|2011-03-21||Petition for Review (Petitioner)|
|2011-03-21||Appendix Filed (Petitioner)|
|2011-02-18||Motion for Extension of Time to File Petition for Review disposed||Filing granted|
|2011-02-15||Motion for Extension of Time to File Petition for Review filed|
|State of Texas||
|Naylor, Angelique S.||
|Branch, Daniel H.||
Let's start with the questions this case does not reach. There is no holding here about the constitutional status of same-sex marriage. Nor does the Court reach the question whether a Texas court can as a general matter grant a same-sex divorce to a couple that was married in another state. A district court that grants such a divorce (or, as happened in Travis County in February 2015, a marriage license) is on no different legal footing after these opinions than it was before.
The Texas Supreme Court's analysis may not have longlasting implications for same-sex marriage or divorce, but it could be crucial to how the next hot-button political issue is litigated by the State.
This challenge was brought by the Attorney General, who was not (obviously) a party to this marriage or (less obviously) a party to the underlying lawsuit. The same-sex couple sought a divorce and, after some disputes being aired at a hearing, eventually agreed on terms. The judge, recognizing that it was unusual to grant a same-sex divorce, nonetheless entered judgment on the divorce decree reflecting the parties' agreed terms. As it turns out, members of the attorney general's office were observing this proceeding. But the office did not seek to formally intervene in the case until after the judgment (divorce decree) was announced. The trial court did not reopen the case to permit that intervention.
The threshold question is whether the Attorney General, although a stranger to this divorce, can pursue appellate remedies to challenge its validity. The Court, divided 5-3, held that at least on the particular circumstances presented here, he could not.
The Attorney General used two different procedural tools to raise the issue: (1) trying to intervene in the divorce case itself, a request that was denied by the trial court, and (2) eventually seeking a writ of mandamus directly from the Texas Supreme Court. Matters of timing became crucial. The AG had not asked to intervene until after the decree was granted. When the trial court did not reopen the case so the AG could participate, the AG filed an appeal to the intermediate court of appeals. When the court of appeals ruled against the AG, he then sought review in the Texas Supreme Court, adding a second basis for jurisdiction—a request for a writ of mandamus arguing that the trial judge exceeded his jurisdiction.
Whether the AG was a proper party to the appeal turned out to be dispositive.
The Court divided 5-3 on this question, ultimately deciding against the AG. The Court held that the AG was not a party to the appeal, either by virtue of Texas statute or a common-law doctrine of virtual representation. The Court observed that the AG had actual notice of the divorce proceedings, with at least one member of the office attending, but chose not to intervene before judgment. It held that, given those circumstances, the trial court was within its discretion not to reopen the divorce decree it had already granted. 1
The AG argued that, even if it did not successfully intervene as a party in the trial court, it should be considered a virtual party for purposes of appeal. The AG's office conceded that it did not meet the usual test for "virtual representation," which would let one party step into the shoes of another. Instead, the office argued that it should be afforded that same status for reasons of equity based on the importance of the issue and the AG's unique role in defending state law. The Court rejected that argument, reasoning that equity could not be used to create standing where none existed.
As for the writ of mandamus, the Court held that it simply came too late. The AG had conducted the full appeal in the court of appeals without bringing the mandamus issue to its attention. In effect, the Court held that this theory was waived by not presenting it to the court of appeals below.
Although the Court ruled 5-3 that it lacked jurisdiction to decide the merits of the case, several of the opinions spoke to the question—and to the lack of precedent that the Court meant to set with today's case. The majority opinion, for example, said that "even if the State could establish standing," the abbreviated way the case was litigated "would have [left the Court] little choice but to remand" the substantive issues to be more fully developed below. Justice Boyd wrote a separate concurrence underscoring that, precisely because the AG was not a party, any legal issues implicit in this divorce decree were not binding on the State so as to set precedent for any future cases. For that reason, Justice Boyd explained, the only appellate opinion speaking to the issue was that of the Dallas Court of Appeals in another case, an opinion holding that any same-sex divorce would violate Texas law. Justice Devine wrote his own separate dissent, delving into the substance of the same point.
Justice Willett's dissent spoke to the procedural question, concluding that "[i]ntervention is an equitable doctrine, and I simply balance the equities differently." He noted that, if the State's position about the substance turns out to be correct (that the courts actually lack subject-matter jurisdiction to issue a divorce, in this situation), there may still be uncertainty about the validity of this divorce. Those complications are left for another day, if they are not swept aside by changes in federal law.
Future cases may turn on whether the AG's office has a similar opportunity to intervene or whether, in the view of an appellate court, the trial court was attempting to evade its involvement. There is a hint of this in how Justice Willett's dissent discusses another, still-pending case challenging the issuance of a same-sex marriage license time-stamped one minute after the action was filed. ↩