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Rule 504. Want of Form
The Supreme Court will not reverse or dismiss for defects or irregularities in procedure, either of form or substance, without allowing a reasonable time to correct or amend such defects or irregularities.
Source: New rule adopted in lieu of Art. 1770.Oct. 29, 1940, eff. Sept. 1, 1941.
Sept. 20, 1941, eff. Dec. 31, 1941
Dec. 5, 1983, eff. April 1, 1984
Repealed by order of April 10, 1986, eff. Sept. 1, 1986.
(No. 42) Question: Where there is not a complete statement of facts on appeal will all reasonable presumptions be indulged in favor of the judgment of the lower court as was the rule under the former practice?
Answer: Our correspondent, in support of his view of the law under the former practice cites inter alia: O'Brien v. Hart, 80 S.W.2d 464 (Tex. Civ. App.-Beaumont, 1935); Sawyer v. First Nat'l Bank of Hico, 41 Tex.Civ.App. 486, 498, 93 S.W. 151, 158 (1906); Newnom v. Williamson, 46 Tex.Civ.App. 615, 103 S.W. 656 (1907).
The subcommittee is of the opinion that the presumption referred to would not apply under the new rules.
Our correspondent observes that: "If this same presumption should be indulged under the new rules, we would defeat the very purpose intended to be accomplished by authorizing the filing of only a partial statement of facts."
This observation seems to the subcommittee to be correct in the light of wording in the rules which is now recited.
A main purpose of the rules concerning appeal is announced by Rule 370 in this way:
"In view of the crowded condition of the dockets of the appellate courts, the record and briefs on appeal should be limited as far as possible to the questions relied on for reversal. The primary purpose of the courts is to administer justice between the parties with as little expense and delay as possible. Liberal provisions are therefore made in these rules for amendments' on appeal to bring forward any material matter which may have been omitted. With this protection the bar is expected to cooperate in shortening the records in furtherance of the provisions of these rules."
Pursuant to this purpose, Rule 377, respecting the statement of facts, requires that: "All matters not essential to the decision of the questions presented on appeal shall be omitted."
At a later point the same rule, carrying out this policy, reads that: " ... the appellant shall deliver or mail to the appellee or his counsel and file with the clerk of the court a designation in writing of the portions of the evidence desired, and shall specify the portions desired in narrative form, if any, and the portions desired in question and answer form, if any, and the portions that are desired to be omitted. Within ten days thereafter any other party to the appeal may file a designation in writing of any additional portions of the evidence to be included, specifying the portion desired in narrative form, if any, and the portions desired in question and answer form, if any."
Then there is this further alternative practice looking to the same end:
"Rule 377-a. Statement of the Points to Be Relied On. - For the purpose of inducing the opposing party to accept an abbreviated transcript or statement of facts, the appellant, or the appellee to the extent that he complains of the judgment or any part thereof, may file with the clerk of the trial court a statement of the points on which he intends to rely on appeal; and he shall thereafter be limited to such points."
It will be seen from these rules that the appellee may readily get into the statement of facts anything that the appellant omits. For this reason and in order to encourage curtailment of the statement of facts, it seems to be within the purpose of the' rules to depart from the old presumption.
If it should be that either of the parties omits something that should be in the statement of facts, there are liberal provisions in the rules for amendment even after the statement of facts gets into the appellate court. One of the rules to this end is 428. It reads:
"If anything material to either party is omitted from the transcript or statement of facts, the parties by stipulation, or the trial court, either before or after the record has been transmitted to the appellate court, or the appellate court, on a proper suggestion or on its own initiative, may direct a supplemental record to be certified and transmitted by the clerk of the trial court supplying such omitted matter."
Another of the rules to the same end is 437. It applies to the Courts of Civil Appeals, and reads:
"A judgment shall not be affirmed or reversed or an appeal dismissed for defects or irregularities in appellate procedure, either of form or substance, without allowing a reasonable time to correct or amend such defects or irregularities, provided the court may make no enlargement of time prohibited by Rule 5 nor any enlargement of the time for filing transcript and statement of facts except as contemplated by Rule 386." (The exceptions have nothing to do with the present situation.)
Rule 504 applies to the Supreme Court and is to the same effect.
So that, the subcommittee agrees with its correspondent's views when he says in concluding his letter:
"In view of the abundant provisions contained in the new rules authorizing the appellee to designate any additional matter which he desires to have brought up on the statement of facts, and further provisions allowing him to supplement the statement of facts later, if necessary, the old presumption should not prevail."
5 Tex. B.J. 236 (1942) reprinted in 8 Tex. B.J. 17 (1945).
(No. 69) Question: Does the answer in No. 42 on Page 236 of 5 Tex. B.J. undertake hold that all presumptions in favor of the judgment of a lower court are to be done away with?
Answer: No. The intention was to say that there will be no presumption that matter omitted from the statement of facts sustains the judgment.
5 Tex. B.J. 428 (1942) reprinted in 8 Tex. B.J. 27 (1945).
(No. 55) Question: 1. Where an application for writ of error was filed and granted before the rules became effective, may the Supreme Court after such rules have become effective properly dismiss such an application without allowing an amendment, upon the ground that jurisdiction because of conflict of decisions is not correctly shown, and properly overrule a motion to amend in such respect?
2. How and under what circumstances may an application for writ of error in the Supreme Court be amended?
Answer: Rule 814 insofar as it is applicable reads: "These rules shall take effect on September 1, 1941. They shall govern all proceedings in actions brought after they take effect and also further proceedings in actions then pending.... "
We are of the opinion that motion to amend, as well as the overruling of such a motion and the dismissal of a writ of error, would be "further proceedings" as contemplated by the above rule.
Rule 1 requires that the rules be given a liberal construction "to obtain a just, fair, equitable and impartial adjudication of the rights of litigants under established principles of substantive law." It is the clear intent of Rules 481 and 504 that the appellate courts should allow reasonable amendments at any time to correct or amend defects or irregularities in want of form. Rule 437, which is applicable to the Courts of Civil Appeals, provides, in substance, that a judgment should not be affirmed or reversed or an appeal dismissed for defects or irregularities in appellate procedure, "either of form or substance, without allowing a reasonable time to correct or amend such defects or irregularities provided the court may make no enlargement of time prohibited by Rule 5 nor any enlargement of time for filing transcript or statement of facts except as contemplated by Rule 387." Rule 504, which specifically applies to the Supreme Court, is to the same effect as Rule 437, which, as stated, applies to actions pending in the Courts of Civil Appeals.
The committee strongly believes that Rules 437, 481, and 504 mark an advanced step in procedure, and that compliance with them will enable the courts in the future to dispose of cases on their merits and reduce to a minimum dismissals for technical procedural defects.
No purpose stands out in the rules with greater prominence than this, viz.; that the attainment of justice, according to the principles of substantive law, is the desideratum in every case; that the rules of procedure should expedite, and not frustrate, the trial of cases on their merit and that irregularities either in matters of form or substance should be, disregarded unless such indulgence and liberality will result in injustice.
Cochran v. Wool Growers Central Storage Co., 140 Tex. 904, 166 S.W.2d 904 (1943), which passes upon a motion to amend an application for writ of error is, we think, in accordance with the above views.
Where the question is raised as to whether the court should dismiss a granted writ of error because of fault in the wording or showing of the application we think that Rule 504, already cited; mandatorily conditions such an order upon the allowance of amendment, for such rule, insofar as here applicable, reads:
"The Supreme Court will not affirm or reverse a judgment or dismiss a writ of error for defects or irregularities in appellate procedure either of form or substance, without allowing a reasonable time to correct or amend such defects or irregularities... "
This mandatory provision for amendment only applies, however, where, the court bases its action upon some such fault.
For a feasible practice in this connection see Hodo v. Mexican Nat'l R.R. Co., 88 Tex. 523, 524, 32 S.W. 511 (1895), and Hilliard v. White, 88 Tex. 591, 593, 32 S.W. 525, 526 (1895).
6 Tex. B.J. 20 (1943) reprinted in 8 Tex. B.J. 30 (1945).
(No. 91) Question: Do the rules which authorize an abbreviation of the record on appeal allow the omission from the transcript of documents showing the jurisdiction of the trial or appellate court? Does Opinion No. 42 of the subcommittee militate against such procedure?
Answer: Opinion No. 42 was only intended to relate to that presumption which had been indulged in by appellate courts to the effect that where the statement of facts was incomplete it would be presumed that the omitted matter was sufficient to sustain the judgment of the trial court. Our Opinion No. 42 related to matters omitted from the statement of facts, and it did not relate to the transcript, nor did it undertake to suggest a rule showing what papers should be contained in the transcript to establish the jurisdiction of the trial or appellate court.
We call attention to Opinion No. 69, 5 Tex. B.J. 428, which construes Opinion No. 42 and states that it was not the intention of Opinion No. 42 to say that all presumptions in favor of the judgment of a lower court are to be done away with, the intention merely being to say that there will be no presumption that matter which is omitted from the statement of facts sustained the judgment of the trial court.
The rules provide that when matter is omitted from the transcript the parties shall be given an opportunity to complete the transcript and bring up any omitted document should such document be deemed material. In other words, if the appellate court feels that the petition and bond from the justice's court or any other document should appear in the record in order to give the Court of Civil Appeals jurisdiction, then the rules provide that the parties should be given an opportunity to bring up the omitted documents, and the appeal should not be dismissed without first affording this opportunity. Rules 437, 504.
6 Tex. B.J. 500 (1943) reprinted in 8 Tex. B.J. 36 (1945).
(No. 131) Question: In San Antonio Joint Stock Bank v. Malcher, 164 S.W.2d 197, 199 (Tex. Civ. App.-San Antonio 1942), the Court of Civil Appeals held that points presented by appellant, but not briefed were waived. The decision was followed by Piedmont Fire Ins. Co. v. Ladin, 174 S.W.2d 991 (Tex. Civ. App.-Galveston 1943) and, during the present year, by Broussard v. L. Cartwright Realty Co., 179 S.W.2d 777 (Tex. Civ. App.-Amarillo 1944), and Orange Laundry Co. v. Stark, 179 S.W.2d 841 (Tex. Civ. App.-Amarillo 1944). Has appellant any remedy in a Case of this sort?
Answer: Yes. His most obvious remedy is, of course, to comply with the briefing rules when he prepares his brief.
We are of the opinion that he has another remedy; that is, a motion to amend. We beg to quote from a number of rules and cases in support of this answer.
Rule 422. The purpose of briefs being to acquaint the court with the points relied upon, the manner in which they arose, together with such argument of facts and law as will enable the court to decide the same, a substantial compliance with these rules will suffice in the interest of justice; but for a flagrant violation of the rules the court may require the case to be rebriefed.
Rule 429. Should it be apparent during the submission or afterwards that the case has not been properly prepared, as shown in the transcript, or properly presented in the brief or briefs, or that 'the law and authorities have not been properly cited, which will enable the court to decide the case, it may decline to receive the submission; or, if received, may set it aside and make such orders as may be necessary to secure a more satisfactory submission of the case; ...
Rule 431. Briefs may be amended or supplemented at any time when justice requires upon such reasonable terms as the court may prescribe, and if the court shall strike or refuse to consider any part of a brief, the court shall on reasonable terms allow the same to be amended or supplemented.
Rule 437. A judgment shall not be affirmed or reversed or an appeal dismissed for defects or irregularities in appellate procedure, either of form or substance, without allowing a reasonable time to correct or amend such defects or irregularities, ... "
In Gillette Motor Transp. Co. v. Wichita Falls & S. Ry. Co., 170 S.W.2d 629 (Tex. Civ. App.-Fort Worth 1943), the Court decided that under the rules above quoted it could, as it did, "after submission of the cause, allow amendment of 'appellant's brief' in order to present points of error not presented in the original brief."
There are similar rules as to applications for writ of error and briefs in the Supreme Court, viz. Rules 469 subd. (f), 481, 491, and 504.
In Cochran v. Wool Growers Central Storage Co., 162 S.W.2d 941 (Tex. 1942), the Supreme Court, having previously granted a writ of error, dismissed it because the application in its Grounds of Jurisdiction on the subject of conflicts of decisions was not in accordance with the rules. Subsequently, on motion far rehearing, it observed that the application had been filed before the rules went into effect but granted a motion to amend which was filed after their effective date, saying in support of its action: "An examination of Rule 481, supra, will disclose that it provides: ‘The application, ... may be amended at any time when justice requires and upon such reasonable terms as the Court may prescribe...' Rule 504, supra, provides: 'The Supreme Court will not ... dismiss a writ of error for defects or irregularities in appellate procedure, either of form or substance, without allowing a reasonable time to correct or amend such defects or irregularities,...' Clearly these two rules authorize this court to grant one who prosecutes a writ of error to this court the right to amend his application, where it is defective either as to form or substance. Such being the case, an application which is defective, in that it fails to properly state grounds of jurisdiction under Section 1 of Article 1821, R.C.S., or Subdivision (b) of Rule 469, can be amended in this court at any time when, in the opinion of the court, justice so requires. Furthermore, we think the right to amend maybe granted even though the original application for writ of error was filed before the effective date of Rules 481 and 504, supra. This holding in no way violates Rule 814, supra, defining the effective date of our present Texas Rules of Civil Procedure. We will therefore order that the amended application for writ of error be filed, and will now consider this case on such amended application."
See also Moore v. Dilworth, 142 Tex. 538, 179 S.W.2d 940 (1944), in which the same court refused to consider a point of error which was contained in neither the motion for rehearing nor the application. The court, however, took care to add: "It would serve no purpose in this instance to permit the application for writ of error to be amended under Rule 504 because the point was not assigned in the motion for rehearing in the Court of Civil Appeals."
These decisions, and the rules upon which they are based very clearly indicate, we think, that a proper practice on behalf of a party whose appellate contentions have not been considered an account of fault in briefing may and, when he actually has a meritorious contention, should be motion to amend.
7 Tex. B.J. 282 (1944) reprinted in 8 Tex. B.J. 49 (1945).