Boulden v. Boulden
In Boulden v. Boulden, 133 S.W.3d 884 (Tex. App.--Dallas 2004, no pet.), the Court held that a trial court's refusal to allow an inmate to proceed by affidavit, deposition, telephone, or other effective means when a personal appearance was not warranted in a divorce action was an abuse of discretion. Id. at 886-87.
In that case, the husband was in prison and the trial court dismissed his divorce action for want of prosecution under rule 165a because he could not appear personally and could not afford to retain an attorney to appear on his behalf. Id. at 886.
The Court recognized that litigants cannot be denied access to the courts simply because they are inmates. Id.
The Court also noted that the inmate had done everything he could to respond to the trial court's notice of dismissal, and that he had proposed such alternative means as appointing him counsel, allowing him to appear by conference call, or bench warranting him to appear in person. Because the trial court dismissed the action without ruling on those requests, we concluded it abused its discretion. Id. at 887.