Client Prevails in Criminal Contempt Case in the Supreme Court of Texas

A Dallas trial court held another firm's client in contempt for lying during his deposition in a civil case and threw him jail. The firm turned to Hawkins Parnell & Young’s appellate specialist Robert Gilbreath for help, who was able to quickly get the client released from jail with an emergency petition for writ of habeas corpus to Texas's Fifth Court of Appeals. The court of appeals later determined it did not have habeas corpus jurisdiction, and the client was returned to jail. Hawkins Parnell then sought habeas relief in Texas's Court of Criminal Appeals, which decided that even though it had jurisdiction, the matter should be decided by the Texas Supreme Court instead. The Texas Supreme Court does not have habeas jurisdiction under these circumstances, so mandamus relief was sought instead. The Supreme Court freed the client pending its decision, and subsequently granted the petition for writ of mandamus. Creating new law, the Supreme Court held that a party cannot be held in contempt for perjury during a deposition unless the perjury prevents the trial court from performing its duties. Another novel aspect of the Supreme Court's ruling was its conclusion that it could exercise its mandamus jurisdiction even though it does not have habeas jurisdiction in this sort of case. The case received significant media coverage.