Texas Causes of Action & Affirmative Defenses

Texas Causes of Action & Affirmative Defenses

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Monday, November 2, 2009

Declaratory Judgment under the Texas UDJA (DJA)

   
DECLARATORY RELIEF UNDER THE DECLARATORY JUDGMENTS ACT (DJA)
   

The Declaratory Judgments Act is a procedural device for deciding cases that are within the trial court's jurisdiction. State v. Morales, 869 S.W.2d 941, 947 (Tex. 1994). The stated purpose of the Act is "to settle and to afford relief from uncertainty and insecurity with respect to rights, status, and other legal relations." Tex.Civ.Prac.&Rem.Code Ann. § 37.002(b)(Vernon 2008); Bonham State Bank v. Beadle, 907 S.W.2d 465, 467 (Tex. 1995).
   
UNDER WHAT CIRCUMSTANCES IS DECLARATORY RELIEF WARRANTED?
 
A declaratory judgment is appropriate only where there is a justiciable controversy about the rights and status of the parties and the declaration will resolve the controversy. Bonham State Bank, 907 S.W.2d at 467.
 
To constitute a justiciable controversy, there must exist a real and substantial controversy involving genuine conflict of tangible interests and not merely a theoretical dispute. Id. The Act does not empower courts to issue advisory opinions. Brooks v. Northglen Association, 141 S.W.3d 158, 164 (Tex. 2004).

   
ATTORNEY'S FEES AVAILABLE TO WINNER OR LOSER IN DECLARATORY JUDGMENT ACTION

 
In any proceeding under this chapter, the court may award costs and reasonable and necessary attorney's fees as are equitable and just.
Tex.Civ.Prac.&Rem.Code Ann. § 37.009.
 
In a declaratory judgment action, the decision to grant or deny attorney's fees is solely within the discretion of the trial court. Neeley v. West Orange-Cove Consolidated Independent School District, 176 S.W.3d 746, 799 (Tex. 2005).
 
Under Section 37.009, a trial court may exercise its discretion to award attorney's fees to either the prevailing or the nonprevailing party. See Barshop v. Medina County Underground Water Conservation District, 925 S.W.2d 618, 637-38 (Tex. 1996). The requirements that fees be reasonable and necessary are matters of fact, while the requirements that fees be equitable and just are matters of law. Bocquet v. Herring, 972 S.W.2d 19, 21 (Tex. 1998).

   
SOURCE: 08-07-00074-CV (El Paso Court of Appeals) (10/28/09)