Divorce Reversed for Improper Notice of Trial

The Tenth Court of Appeals reminds us that when a party is represented by a lawyer, notices must be sent to the lawyer and not to the client. Because a court coordinator sent notice of trial to the client instead of the lawyer, the trial court committed reversible error by refusing to set aside a default judgment. In re Marriage of Landry, No. 10-13-00293-CV (Tex. App. – Waco Apr. 10, 2014) (mem. op.).

improper notice

Here’s what happened: The client was represented by a lawyer. But the client failed to pay his lawyer, so the lawyer filed a motion to withdraw as counsel to the client.

The Motion to Withdraw

A motion to withdraw must list the last known mailing address of the client. On March 7, 2013, the court coordinator sent a notice of trial, set for May 17, 2013, to the address the lawyer listed for the client in his motion to withdraw. The court coordinator sent the notice by certified mail, return receipt requested. The file showed that the client’s brother signed for the certified mail.

On May 17, 2013 – the day of trial – the client did not appear and suffered a default judgment. On that same day, the trial court signed an order permitting the lawyer to withdraw as counsel for the client.

Improper Notice

Rule 8 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure states, in part: “All communications from the court or other counsel with respect to a suit shall be sent to the attorney in charge.” Because the lawyer still represented the client until he withdrew on the day of trial, notice to the client (via his brother or otherwise) was inadequate. The court of appeals reversed the case for improper notice of trial.

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