Eighth Court of Appeals Grants Mandamus for Attorney Subjected to Bench Warrant

By April 29, 2016March 8th, 2019Announcements, Court Decisions

The Eighth Court of Appeals conditionally granted mandamus to an attorney subjected to a bench warrant for failing to appear at a show-cause hearing.

Relator Mario Alonzo Cisneros was trial counsel in an underlying matter in El Paso, Texas. In lieu of the parties agreeing upon a docket control order, the trial court sent notice to the parties requiring them to appear at a scheduling conference. When no one appeared at the conference, the trial court issued an order setting a show-cause hearing, specifically requiring trial counsel or local counsel to appear. When only local counsel appeared, the trial court issued a bench warrant for Cisneros’s arrest and set his bond at $2500. Cisneros promptly filed a petition for mandamus and an alternative petition for habeas corpus.

As an initial matter, the Eighth Court granted Cisneros’s motion for emergency relief and stayed the bench warrant. It also decided that the case warranted mandamus review instead of habeas corpus, reasoning that the trial court had not entered a contempt order and that Cisneros had not been taken into custody.

The Eighth Court ultimately granted mandamus. It held that the trial court provided insufficient notice to satisfy due process. More specifically, the Eighth Court held that the trial court’s show-cause order was insufficient because the order did not accuse Cisneros of contempt or otherwise provide notice that he would be subject to punishment. And, the order did not make Cisneros’s attendance mandatory. Lastly, the Eighth Court held that the same constitutional infirmities plagued the bench warrant even if it were viewed as a capias or writ of attachment.

Maitreya Tomlinson was lead counsel in the mandamus proceeding.

In re Cisneros, No. 08-15-00197-CV (Tex. App.—El Paso Nov. 6, 2015, orig. proceeding) (opinion available here).