PICK UP POKER INC v. THE STATE OF TEXAS AND THE CITY OF DALLAS

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Court of Appeals of Texas, Dallas.

PICK-UP POKER, INC., Appellant v. THE STATE OF TEXAS AND THE CITY OF DALLAS, Appellees

No. 05-09-00562-CV

Decided: October 28, 2010

Before Justices Bridges, Francis, and Lang

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Opinion By Justice Francis

Pick-Up Poker, Inc. appeals the trial court's order dismissing this case for want of jurisdiction.   In a single issue, Pick-Up Poker claims the trial court erred by granting appellees' pleas to the jurisdiction because civil courts have jurisdiction to interpret civil statutes that reference criminal law.   We affirm.

Pick-Up Poker is a Texas corporation that “will engage in the business of leasing furnished poker rooms to its members at very inexpensive rates and on a pseudo-nonprofit basis.”   Pick-Up Poker filed its original petition, seeking a declaratory judgment “determining the rights, status and other legal obligations of the parties” under section 125 of the Texas Civil Practices and Remedies Code. Section 125.0015 entitled “Common Nuisance” provides that a “person who maintains a place to which persons habitually go” for “gambling, gambling promotion, or communicating gambling information as prohibited by the Penal Code” and “who knowingly tolerates the activity and furthermore fails to make reasonable attempts to abate the activity maintains a common nuisance.”   Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem.Code Ann. § 125.0015 (West Supp.2010).   In its petition, Pick-Up Poker sought forty-three specific declarations interpreting sections 47.01, 47.02, 47.03, and 47.05 of the Texas Penal Code related to gambling.

The State of Texas filed a plea to the jurisdiction challenging Pick-Up Poker's right to sue on two grounds.   The State first asserted the 14th Judicial District Court lacked jurisdiction to consider the validity or interpretation of a penal statute.   Alternatively, the State claimed the case argued the claim was not ripe for judicial review because no real controversy had arisen between Pick-Up Poker and the State.   The City of Dallas also filed a plea to the jurisdiction raising three challenges to Pick-Up Poker's request for declaratory judgment.   The City asserted Pick-Up Poker sought an advisory opinion on a hypothetical or contingent situation, “such as whether [Pick-Up Poker's] potential future business will violate various gambling provisions in the Texas Penal Code.” The City also claimed the 14th Judicial District Court lacked jurisdiction to construe a criminal statute in a civil proceeding and the City had sovereign immunity from suit.   Following a hearing, the trial court concluded “the pleas have merit,” granted the pleas and ordered the case dismissed for want of jurisdiction.

In a single issue, Pick-Up Poker claims the trial court erred in granting the pleas to the jurisdiction because civil courts, including the 14th Judicial District Court, have jurisdiction to interpret criminal statutes referenced in civil statutes.

An appellant seeking to reverse a trial court's judgment must attack all independent bases or grounds that fully support a complained-of ruling or judgment.  Oliphant Fin. LLC v. Angiano, 295 S.W.3d 422, 423-24 (Tex.App.-Dallas 2009, no pet.);  Britton v. Tex. Dep't of Criminal Justice, 95 S.W.3d 676, 681 (Tex.App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 2002, no pet.).   If the appellant does not do so, we must affirm the ruling or judgment.  Britton, 95 S.W.3d at 681.   The reasoning is that, if an independent ground fully supports the complained-of ruling or judgment, but the appellant assigns no error to that independent ground, we must accept the validity of that unchallenged independent ground and any error in the grounds challenged on appeal is harmless because the unchallenged independent ground fully supports the complained-of ruling or judgment.  Oliphant Fin., 295 S.W.3d at 424.

In this case, the trial court did not state the grounds upon which it granted the pleas to the jurisdiction.   Rather than attack all grounds alleged, Pick-Up Poker only challenged whether the trial court had jurisdiction to construe a criminal statute in a civil proceeding.   Because Pick-Up Poker did not challenge the other grounds asserted in the pleas to the jurisdiction and the trial court could have concluded the claim was not ripe for judicial review (raised by both the State and the City), we must affirm the trial court's ruling.   See Oliphant Fin., 295 S.W.3d at 424;  Britton, 95 S.W.3d at 682.   We overrule Pick-Up Poker's sole issue.

We affirm the trial court's order.

090562F.P05

MOLLY FRANCIS JUSTICE

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