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Presented: Conference on State and Federal Appeals May 29-30, 2008 Austin, Texas
Findings of Fact & Conclusion of Law: Do They Really Matter
David E. Keltner
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Author contact information: David E. Keltner Paula T. Perkins Kelly Hart & Hallman LLP Fort Worth, Texas David.Keltner@khh,com Paula.Perkins@khh.com 817-332-2500
Continuing Legal Education • 512-475-6700 • www.utcle.org
WHAT IS THE PROPER FORMAT FOR FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS? A. C. B. Following a Bench Trial on the Merits Other Situations Following a Jury Trial When Not to Request Them 1 1 2 2 2 2 4 4 4 5 5 5 5 5 6 7 7 7 8 9 9 9 9 9 10 10 WHAT IS THE TIMETABLE FOR REQUESTING AND FILING THEM? A. IV. E. No Findings or Conclusions Filed/No Reporter's Record No Findings and Conclusions Filed/Reporter's Record Filed Findings and Conclusions/No Reporter's Record Requested .TABLE OF CONTENTS I. B. F. D. 2. B. INTRODUCTION WHY ARE FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW IMPORTANT? WHO SHOULD REQUEST THEM? IN WHAT SITUATIONS SHOULD THEY BE REQUESTED? A. II. WHY SHOULD THEY BE REQUESTED? A. In Writing Findings Separate from Judgment VII. Initial Request Trial Court's Deadline Follow-Up Request Trial Court's Deadline Request for Additional or Amended Findings Trial Court's Deadline Interlocutory Appeals VI. 3. C. To Narrow the Issues on Appeal To Extend the Appellate Timetable To Avoid Appellate Presumptions Adverse to Your Client 1. G. C. III. B. D. V.
B. C. B. 2. WHAT IF YOU REQUEST FINDINGS/CONCLUSIONS AND TRIAL COURT DOESN'T FILE THEM? A. Remand 14 14 14 15 15 16 16 17 17 18 18 18 18 19 X. Omitted Findings 11 12 12 12 13 WHAT FINDINGS SHOULD YOU REQUEST A. 5. 4. WHAT IS THE STANDARD OF REVIEW? A. D. VIII. 3. Keep in Mind the Applicable Legal Standard Ultimate or Controlling Issues Undisputed Facts IX.4. B. CONCLUSION . Waiver Late Findings and Conclusions Successor Judges Remedy: Abatement vs. Following Trial on the Merits 1. Legal Sufficiency Standard Factual Sufficiency Standard Unchallenged Findings of Fact Conclusions of Law Partial Reporter's Record Discretionary Findings and Conclusions XI. C.
James Holmes Enters.—Beaumont 1983.W. Now you're wondering if you should request findings of fact and conclusions of law and. are of great importance on appeal. this article relies heavily on the works of others. R. 1 . as discussed herein. and the trial court has rendered judgment against your client. however.. 664 S.. 806 S. John Bankston Constr. Further. if findings are not filed. This paper is designed to alert you to some of the pitfalls associated with requesting findings of fact and conclusions of law and to provide you some tools so that you can request and obtain the findings that you need or be prepared to challenge on appeal the trial court's failure to make those findings. Why Are Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law Important? Findings of fact and conclusions of law form the basis of the trial court's judgment. Inc. Findings of fact reflect the trial court's decisions regarding the ultimate and controlling factual issues of a plaintiff's claim or a defendant's defense. Rental. the procedure for requesting and obtaining them is fraught with pitfalls for the unwary. City of Seven Points. App.Findings of Fact & Conclusions of Law: Do They Really Matter? I. 1991). Will they really matter if your client decides to appeal? The answer to this question is a resounding "Yes!" Findings of fact. 3 2 Anderson v. STATE BAR OF TEXAS. how much time and effort to expend in obtaining them. 794 (Tex. The authors gratefully acknowledge the foundation provided in two excellent articles authored by Justice Eva M. 2 3 1 Findings of fact and conclusions of law are important because. Guzman of the Fourteenth Court of Appeals and that Court's Chief Staff Attorney. without them. it is often difficult for the appellate court to determine what legal theory forms the basis of the trial court's judgment. As with all seminar papers. If you plan to request findings and conclusions—and you should. P. Nina Reilly: "Think Before You Write" —Preparing Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law. v. if so. on reh'g). if you want to challenge the trial court's judgment—you'll want to do more than click your heels together three times and hope for the best. Introduction You've just tried a case to the bench.2d 832. Civ. it is often virtually impossible to attack the trial court's judgment on appeal. From the findings of fact. Findings of fact and conclusions of law filed after a bench trial are equivalent to a jury verdict returned after a jury trial. and PostTrial Appellate Issues Including Findings of Fact: A View From the Appellate Court. STATE BAR OF TEXAS. writ ref'd n. 1 Tex.) (op. 32ND ANNUAL ADVANCED FAMILY LAW PRACTICE COURSE ( 2 0 0 6 ) . 299. 834 (Tex. & Equip.2d 791. II.e.W.r. in particular. ADVANCED FAMILY LAW DRAFTING COURSE ( 2 0 0 5 ) . Inc. the trial court draws its conclusions of law that support the court's disposition of the case.
935 S. proceeding). Id.2d 830. 837 n. If additional or amended findings are requested. Tex. The parties have a right to written findings of fact and conclusions of law after a conventional bench trial on the merits. Comm'n for Lawyer Discipline. 5 S. 8 9 10 B." Thus. (Nigeria) Ltd. Other Situations. The request must be entitled "Request for Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law" and must be served on all other parties to the case in accordance with Rule 21a. In situations in which an abuse of discretion standard of review applies. Grossnickle v. of N.W. Am.2d at 442.2d 440. but should specify the additional or amended findings that the party making the request wants the trial court to make.W. 5 4 When findings and conclusions are requested. 935 S.l (Tex. 1997). 846 n.W.W. 253 (Tex. generally only the losing party will request initial findings and conclusions. IKB Indus. 21a. after the following types of judgments and orders: 11 4 Tex. Blackmon. Rule 298 contemplates that the request should not be a general request. R.. As a practical matter. writ denied). 938 S. 2 11 . 9 10 Chrysler Corp. In What Situations Should They Be Requested? A.W.III. 296.W. 296. accord In re BP Prods. 244 S. Grossnickle.2d at 838.3d 840. R... v.W. P. because a judgment rendered without them has the greatest possibility of being upheld on appeal.. Civ. 1992) (orig. 7 6 5 Grossnickle. unless the losing party submits proposed findings with his request. R. proceeding). however. findings of fact and conclusions of law are discretionary. 442 (Tex.3d 241. however. the trial court usually invites the prevailing party to prepare them based on the court's rulings.—Houston [14th Dist. v. P. Following a Bench Trial on the Merits. but not required. 938 S. IKB Indus. 8 Tex. Civ. 296.6 (Tex. 841 S.] 1999. Vickery v. App.2d 844.—Texarkana 1996. pet.. 852 (Tex. P. Findings of fact can provide a basis for overcoming the presumption of the validity of the judgment and demonstrating error on appeal. the trial court must make and file them. Pro-Line Corp. 2008) (orig. Who Should Request Them? Any party to a case may request findings of fact and conclusions of law. Thus. the Texas Supreme Court has stated that trial court findings may aid an appellate court in determining whether the trial court exercised its discretion in a "reasonable and principled fashion. Civ. if they are properly requested. 6 7 IV. denied). App. Inc.
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